We've all been steeped in enough reality television to know that scavenger hunts have to kick it up a notch to get our attention, but who wants to eat a bug or run across the country?
Some 40 teams are expected to take their marks in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday for the St. Pete Scavenger Blast. The Amazing Race-style event is more fun than Fear Factor, with costumes encouraged. The search for 12 clues will cover about 5 miles.
We asked Michelle Kleinmetz, owner of Big Fun Events, which is sponsoring the race, for some tips for potential scavengers or for spectators keen to see people humiliate themselves for little more than bragging rights and a gift card.
Technology has made game play more interesting, she said, because with instant access to the Internet, obscure clues or historical markers can be more easily found out.
"I had somebody whose phone-a-friend mapped out their route on Google Earth so they could find the shortest possible route. They didn't win, but I thought that was a pretty clever use of technology."
The deadline to register for $75 a team at stpetescavengerblast.com is 5 p.m. Friday. Day of registration is $85 at Ferg's Sports Bar, 1320 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, where check-in is at 9:15 a.m. Saturday. The race takes two to four hours. Race organizers are donating a portion of the proceeds to the CASA women's shelter. Bring a digital camera or camera phone, ID and $5 or more in $1 bills.
The friends and "pit crews" of the racers will gather at Ferg's, where the race will wind up. Awards will be presented at 2:30 p.m.
What to wear
Good sneakers and something fun, like a Wonder Woman costume. But keep maneuverability in mind. "At our race in Tampa two men came as nuns and it made for a very warm day for them," Kleinmetz said. "But they did win best costume. They had to sing the YMCA song in front of the YMCA building and they had hands up in the air. They looked like they were in church."
Type of challenge
You'll be given 12 clues, many of them in the form of puzzles or word scrambles. You may have to go to a cemetery and bring back a gravestone rubbing, best a water balloon challenge or eat something. You won't find bugs or allergens in the food challenges, but you might have to do something like eat a stack of crackers and whistle or feed your partner blindfolded.
In past races the crowd has been 60 percent women, Kleinmetz said, and they are usually huge Amazing Race fans. "They are not big athletes, they are looking for a fun time."
"My biggest meltdown moment was in the Tampa race. These two girls were on the last challenge and started singing as fast as they possibly could and then took off running and beat the other team by about 4 seconds," Kleinmetz said. "They were ecstatic."
But then, the letdown. The teams were supposed to take a picture of the "Centennial Clock Keep," which is the clock that keeps time at the Tampa Amtrak station. They took a picture of a clock in Centennial Park. "So the girls who had scrambled to make it to the finish line ended up finishing 14th. So they were crushed, literally crushed."
Tips for racers
Bring water and a backpack. Make alliances on other teams; have a friend with Internet access to phone or use a smart phone. Have some maps and "think like a tourist," Kleinmetz said. "If you are new to the area, where would you go and what would you do?" And brush up on your history. Clues often include the original names of buildings, not what they are called now.
Misinterpreting a clue. Clues are written with specific instructions. Sometimes you need to take a picture. Sometimes the picture has to include both players. The first person to come in with all 12 correct answers wins, and that's often not the first person across the finish line.
This article has been changed to reflect the following correction: Because of incorrect information provided to the Times, the sign-up deadline for Saturday's St. Pete Scavenger Blast was incorrect in today's Weekend section, which is printed in advance. The deadline to register for $75 is 5 p.m. Friday. Day-of registration is $85 at Ferg's Sports Bar, 1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, where race check-in is 9:15 a.m. Saturday. See stpetescavengerblast.com for details.