Trivia Reigns: Weekend Forecast Calls for Fun During Lawrence University's 50-Hour Minutia Marathon
APPLETON, WIS. -- Lawrence University will beat CBS to the punch when its own unique version of "Survivor" hits the airwaves Friday, Jan. 19, challenging the mental dexterity and physical endurance of hundreds of players over a 50-hour period in the 36th edition of the Midwest Trivia Contest.
Although the winner of this game won't have to endure any dramatic tribal council votes, the ultimate champion will be required to know significant amounts of insignificant things.
Beginning at 10 p.m. Friday and running until midnight Sunday, Jan. 21, eleven "Trivia Masters" will test scores of off-campus and on-campus teams with matters of minutia. The country's oldest ongoing salute to the insignificant, the contest features questions that are as obscure as they are charming. On-campus and off-campus teams, with names ranging from the carefully creative ("Triviagra") to those that tickle the underbelly of good taste ("Touched by an Uncle"), vie for meaningless prizes by phoning in answers to questions with varying point values. The contest is broadcast on WLFM, 91.1 FM, Lawrence's student-run campus radio station that reaches from Green Bay to Oshkosh.
The contest has traditionally been held the final weekend of January, but a scheduling conflict involving several of this year's trivia masters forced a move up a week on the calendar, the first time since 1995 that it's not being played at the end of the month.
"I hope the date change doesn't cause problems for some of the out-of-town players on off-campus teams who schedule their vacations around the contest," said an apologetic Matt Pickett, this year's trivia "Grand Master." "We've done our best to try and get the word out about the change. I'll understand if people are upset, but as long as they still play and have a good time, that's really all I care about."
Through the years, the Lawrence Midwest Trivia Contest has nurtured friendships, sparked romances -- at least one marriage resulted from a couple who met as trivia teammates -- and spawned second and even third generation trivia devotees from among the original players. Even as the contest settles into middle age, its magic and magnetism remains strong, still luring players from both coasts back to America's heartland in the dead of winter. Nearly 60 off-campus teams, some featuring as many as 30 players, participated in last year's contest according to Pickett.
"It's just the crazy fun that's involved in looking for an answer," said Pickett, trying to explain the contest's on-going appeal. "There's a camaraderie that pervades the whole contest."
More than 350 questions, copiously collected throughout the previous year by the student trivia masters, are expected to be asked during the weekend. Special theme segments, such as "Death and Destruction," with questions geared specifically toward those topics, pop up throughout the contest.
The 50th and final hour of the contest is devoted to extra difficult 100 point "garruda" questions, climaxed by the final question -- the virtually unanswerable Super Garruda. Last year one team did answer the Super Garruda, becoming one of only a handful ever to do so and earning a place in contest history lore in the process.
Through the years, the lengths some teams have gone to answer questions has become legendary, all in the hopes of winning an equally trivial prize such as package of chicken Ramen noodles, a pink flamingo lawn ornament or a squirrel pelt. In 1992, two off-campus teams ended up tied after the 50-hour marathon, so the Trivia Masters did the equitable thing: they split the first-place prize. A used violin case was cut in half and each received six months off a calendar of Paul McCartney art.
"We'll call just about anywhere in the world," says Appleton's Pat Branson, who did just that in 1998, waking an unsuspecting Ray Boldt in Birmingham, England in the wee hours of the morning to ask him what he did on an unnamed BBC program on April 19, 1979. With 100 points at stake, an international phone call was a small price to pay for the notoriety that comes with answering a Super Garruda. Calling England was nothing new to Branson, who had previously dialed up Buckingham Palace and London's Hard Rock Cafe in search of answers (both successful).
"We got Mr. Boldt out of bed," recalled Branson. "He didn't have any idea what we were talking about, but he was pleasant enough. We kept him on the line until the answer time period expired so other teams couldn't reach him. It was all very exciting."
Registration and a primer on the contest rules begins at 7 p.m. Jan. 19. At 10 p.m., Lawrence President Richard Warch will uphold tradition by officially opening the 2001 contest with last year's Super Garruda question: In the James Bond movie, "The World is Not Enough," what was the name of the contemporary sculpture, and the artist who created it, that appears in the beginning chase scene?
Doesn't everyone know that it's "Puppy" by Jeff Koons?
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