Editor’s note: Groundspeak Lackeys are traveling thousands of miles from H.Q. this year to share smiles, shake hands and make geocaching memories at more than a dozen Mega-Events worldwide. Sandy Barker, a.k.a. Sandy, attended the Mega-Event The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011 in West Bend, Wisconsin, USA. Sandy has been geocaching since 2001 and a Lackey since 2006. This is Sandy’s account of The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011.
When I was asked if I would attend a Mega-Event this summer as a representative of Groundspeak, I said two things, “Absolutely!” and “I’d like to go to Wisconsin.” I had never been to Wisconsin, but have developed a love and appreciation for the Midwest, so happily put my hand up to attend The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011.
My journey started early on a Friday morning – 4am Seattle time – which I can only blame on myself as I had booked the 6am flight to Milwaukee. Still, I don’t mind flying and caught up on sleep as I traversed the country – and I would need it. I made my way from Milwaukee to West Bend later that day, checked in to my hotel, and then headed over to the event’s HQ, where I met Craig and MJ, the event’s organizers. They had commandeered the beautiful Regner Park, with its own beach, pond, seating area and buildings, perfect for such an event.
The Cache Ba$h H.Q. was a hive of activity, with volunteers from the Wisconsin Geocaching Association working side-by-side with members of the town’s Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce had done a brilliant job promoting the event and as I drove through the town I saw signs everywhere welcoming geocachers.
I declared that I would like to be put to work and joined the enthusiastic group registering geocachers for the two-day geocaching event. The CacheBa$h works like this; teams (of one to 6 people) register to play and receive raffle tickets for a cash drawing at the end of the event. They are also given a game card with 66 blank squares and the information – either in print or digital – to find 66 caches that are placed just prior to the event by local cachers.
Cachers had a day and a half to find as many caches as they could, and in each cache they found a stamp used to fill the corresponding space on their game card. When they returned the card to H.Q., they got raffle tickets for the prize drawing based on how many caches they found. Two caches were only accessible by boat!
As we registered teams and chatted with cachers, there was a flash of lightning and then the heavens opened. West Bend became Wet Bend in a matter of minutes. I apologized to anyone who could hear me over the rain for bringing it with me from Seattle. Still geocachers are an intrepid bunch, and certainly not put off by a ‘little bit of rain’.
The next day I looked out the hotel window to a familiar site – a gray sky – and had to remind myself that I was not in Seattle, but across the country. Back at the event’s H.Q., coffee was brewing and spirits were high. It was definitely going to rain, but we’d had 700 teams and over 1200 people register to participate. As they made their way back to H.Q. throughout the wet afternoon, we were handed soggy game cards that looked more like watercolor paintings than the pristine keys we were scoring them against.
Still, the smiles prevailed. Children – geokids – as young as two stood happily in their wet weather gear and regaled stories of their adventures. That they had found ‘only’ 7 caches of the 66 didn’t matter. They’d had a brilliant time. Many teams returned with full cards, which left me in awe each time they handed the game card over the counter. The rain kept coming and we watched big kids and small kids play in the puddles that were growing across the grounds.
There was a group photo planned for the end of the day, and about 5 minutes before we all gathered on the stage, the sun came out.
It was time for to announce prize winners. Craig Farrell, local geocacher and Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, was an excellent emcee, and as well as offering thanks yous and calling out prize winners, he reminded us all that next year will be the 5th Cache Ba$h and to think ahead to summer 2012.
The raffle tickets that teams earned by finding caches could win them one of the many prizes that covered a table on the stage, everything from Lackey Coins to an electric griddle. I played Vanna White, and drew raffle tickets from a barrel. This is the first time I have done this, and it is just as cool and fun as it looks.
When the bounty was handed out, we moved on to the cache prizes. Another first for me is handing over giant checks – also fun and cool. Congratulations to the winners, one of whom had also won a GPS device in the previous drawing. And congratulations to tom k. for winning the creative cache competition.
We wrapped up by acknowledging the community’s local reviewers, Becky “Bec” and Dave “WisKid”, who do a brilliant job working with a passionate and dedicated community of cachers.
The next morning the WGA hosted a pancake breakfast, and it was my pleasure to serve pancakes to some tired, but happy cachers. The sun even decided to make an appearance and all sogginess from the previous day disappeared. It was a perfect wrap up to the whole weekend of caching, fun and making new friends.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in West Bend. It was a privilege to represent Groundspeak and a pleasure to meet so many great people. They had come from as far as the Czech Republic and from as close as across the street. No matter where they came from, they all contributed to a highly successful, well organized and super fun event.
Thank you all.
You can also find a Lackey at one of these upcoming Mega-Events:
Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany – Geocoinfest Europa
Catalunya, Spain – Mega Event Catalunya
South Carolina, USA – Geocoinfest