By the end of the day, our group had ambushed a random couple at the zoo and asked how they met. We had goaded a manager at Magruder's into finding the most expensive item in his store for us. One of us even slid down a fire house pole -- all in the relentless pursuit of capturing it on tape.
Video scavenger hunts are a great way to spice up a fall afternoon, make new friends and explore crevices of the city you never knew existed. All you need are buddies to break up into teams, video cameras and a list of obscure objects and whimsical interactions to document for the ages. Follow this game plan, and your friends will be complimenting your ingenuity for months:
ROUND UP THE TROOPS: Ideally, you should have about 20 folks, enough for about four teams. Call your friends and get them to bring their acquaintances. Try to mix the groups so that as few people know each other as possible. Brainstorming provides an excellent way of making new friends and even sparking romance.
"I can't say I got to know the people on the other teams too well, but I do feel a certain kinship with the gang I spent the day with," says Margaret Guroff of Glover Park, who participated in a hunt masterminded by Mount Pleasant resident David Greenfieldboyce.
MAP OUT YOUR MISSION: Have your contestants track down obscure city landmarks (Pulpit Rock), perform embarrassing personal stunts (recite the Gettysburg Address at the Lincoln Memorial) or solicit the participation of strangers (hug a bouncer). Assign points to each task based on difficulty. Offer plenty of options on your list, far more than can be done in the time period you allot.
"It was hilarious -- at one point we staged a kung-fu battle on the sidewalk outside the Hilton; people gave us a pretty wide berth there," Guroff says.
For his adventure, Greenfieldboyce mixed some specific items (film a clock at Union Station at 2:47 p.m. -- 20 points) with some willfully ambiguous ones (cat touching dog -- a 6-point task that one group completed by finding a pet store with a very docile pup). Some tasks made for easy points (film a baby elephant at the zoo -- 3 points), while others required a bit of inventiveness (capture a fax machine receiving a $1 -- 8 points). In addition to the list of challenges, you should also provide a rules sheet, including a deadline (generally one to four hours from the start time works best).
ADD IN THE X FACTOR: To goose the fun quotient, think up variations (the Web, especially the resources listed below, can help you get creative). Aaron Hutchings, whose Louisville-based video production company sponsored a hunt earlier this summer, provided a list of riddles that participants had to crack in order to know what to film: "In tight pants they prance around, place a nutcracker can be found." (Answer: the Louisville Ballet.) Just be careful that your challenges don't jeopardize the participants -- or anyone else. One participant of a New York expedition tried to fulfill the job of "team member kissing police officer of same gender," only to have one of New York's finest rebuff his advances.
CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT: Locating enough camcorders can be a challenge, but new parents are often a good resource. Many can spare their camcorders in between sessions of capturing their newborn's every move. Purchasing additional cameras is another, albeit expensive, option; basic models may be had for $250 at most electronic stores. Also, be sure all batteries are fully charged and have extras on hand in case the juice runs low.
PLAN A VIEWING PARTY: When the teams return, gather everyone in front of a television to show the resulting footage of each team's sometimes-fumbling attempts to complete the tasks. Order a few pizzas, or serve a group meal like Frito pies (Fritos overlaid with chili, cheese, onion, jalapeno rings, etc.) or a big pot of fondue.
As the video plays, tally how many goals each team achieved. Expect a certain amount of spirited debate, as teams try to creatively interpret some of the more difficult tasks to score easy points. When finished, add the scores and present the team with the highest points an award -- a thrift shop trophy usually does the trick.
wHERE TO scavenge ideas
The Web has a number of pages describing the rules for a variety of video scavenger hunts -- for adults and kids -- along with creative suggestions for what could be filmed.
Birthday Party Ideas. A good resource for parents planning parties for kids, this Web site has video scavenger hunt suggestions for children and teenagers. www.birthdaypartyideas.com/html/scavenger_parties_17.html.
Party411. With party plans for every occasion, this Web site is geared more toward an adult audience. www.party411.com/theme100.html.
Scavenger Hunt Anywhere. Interested in using a video scavenger hunt for corporate team-building? This Web site offers numerous options. www.scavengerhuntanywhere.com.
The Source for Youth Ministry: Several religious-based Web sites, including this one, have a wide variety of video scavenger hunts to choose from. www.thesource4ym.com/events/event.asp?ID=53.