Tag: Great Midwest Trivia Contest

Lawrence crowns 2017 trivia champions

After finishing third a year ago, Holy Broman Literary Society ended Hobgoblins of Little Minds’ two-year run as champions, winning the 2017 off-campus title for the first time in Lawrence University’s 52nd Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

The Madison-based team, featuring a dozen Lawrence alumni, racked up 1,376 points out of a possible 1,800 during the 50-hour contest that ended at midnight Sunday, Jan. 29, to edge The Cailloutastrophe, which finished second with 1,358 points. Two-time defending champions Hobloblins of Little Minds settled for third with 1,313 points. A total of 80 off-campus teams competed.

Team Drinking in the Lounge easily won on-campus title with 1,284 points among 18 on-campus teams. Homemaker, wife and mother to 3 beautiful children (1,153 points) and Cult of the Pink Shoes (1,110) finished second and third.

For their winning efforts, Holy Broman Literary Society and Team Drinking in the Lounge were awarded first-place prizes of an unopened can of Red Dog beer, and a leg ripped from a stuffed animal monkey, respectively.

Unlike last year, no team was able to answer this year’s “Super Garruda,” the contest’s final, virtually impossible question: A number of Lawrentians have taken trips to China to study sustainability. In the third city visited on their 2015 trip, there is a bar on the 10th floor of a building near the intersection of Minquan Road and Fushui North Road. In the fifth issue of a magazine they distributed last July, which features a pink robot on the cover, what artist is shown on page eight?

While no one was able to come up with correct answer — Dickid — one on-campus team, with the help of a Chinese-speaking friend, was able to track down the bar’s manager and learn the name of the magazine, but ran out of time before learning the artist’s name.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest offers 52nd test of cerebral fitness

 It seems a no brainer that Ridley Tankersley would eventually hold the exalted title of Trivia Headmaster of Lawrence University’s ultimate test of cerebral fitness.

Senior Ridley Tankersley will oversee the 52nd edition of Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Heck, he almost was named a trivia master before he was even a Lawrence student.

As 2017’s Trivia Headmaster, Tankersley, a senior studio art major from Phoenix, Ariz., will oversee 50 straight hours of outrageous competition all in the name of fun during the 52nd edition of Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Older than the Super Bowl and liberally sprinkled with questions that make explaining the Higgs Boson look easy, the Lawrence trivia contest is the nation’s longest-running salute to all things obscure.

The contest returns in all its inconsequential glory Friday, Jan. 27 at its customary 10:00.37 p.m. start time and runs until midnight Sunday. The contest, just as it has for the past 11 years, will be webcast worldwide from the control room of wlfmradio.

Nearly 400 questions will be asked over the course of the contest, with hundreds, if not thousands of trivia addicts playing for on-campus and off-campus teams, calling in answers to the WLFM studios. Last year, 86 teams battled it out for the off-campus title, which was won by Hobgoblins of Little Minds, a team based in North Carolina. Among on-campus combatants, David and the Bucky’s Batallion Diabolically Antagonizing Tortured Brood-Makers, Basically Building Batteries, Bungee Jumping Blindfolded, Bizarrely Bludgeoning Bells and Definitely Ascending toward Brilliance By Dastardly Battling Together outlasted 18 challengers for its second straight title.

Tankersley, who went from playing as a freshman to serving as a trivia master the past two contests, tried to pull a fast one in 2012. As a visiting prospective student, Tankersley conspired with a current student to apply as a trivia master.

“We thought it would be funny if we both auditioned to be trivia masters,” said Tankersley, who was a member of the winning on-campus team his freshman year. “I pretended to be a Lawrence student. My visit roommate gave me a fake Lawrence ID number and his room number. I went through the whole process, including an interview. I heard I came close to being picked. I think people were quite surprised when they realized I was back in Arizona finishing high school.”

As he gets ready to settle in to the big chair for the weekend, Tankersley hopes to remind players of the contest’s credo: Trivia is meant to be entertainment and should be perceived solely in that light.

“I’ve seen the focus put on competitiveness, not the enjoyment of playing and I want to see it go back to that,” said Tankersley, who figures he’ll only manage to sneak in eight hours of sleep during the course of the 50-hour contest. “I want it to be on the front of everyone’s mind that people are playing because it’s fun and trivia masters are doing what they do because it’s fun.”

A “deck full” of trivia masters will assist headmaster Ridley Tankersley (center) during this year’s 50-hour Great Midwest Trivia contest.

While technology has perhaps eroded some of the contest’s original, simple charm, its core spirit — a weird, yet at the same time weirdly logical experience —  remains untarnished.

“You’re in a room with waxing and waning numbers of other teammates, but you’re all there doing the same thing,” said Tankersley, whose dad played as the one-man team “Square Root of All Evil” from Arizona last year. “People take it seriously and it’s inspiring that they do, finding the fun in this weird thing.

“It’s really all about the community of playing,” he added. “It’s about spending time with your friends on the weekend, and maybe coming out of it with a bad prize. It’s all about the experience.”

 Appleton native Kim Stahl knows all about trivia’s “community of playing.” She began playing the trivia contest when she was in elementary school and started a team in sixth grade. Today, she and her best friend Heidi Delorey are co-ring leaders of a team that numbers around four dozen multiple-generation players from as many as 10 states who annually converge on her home — in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Stahl, who has approximately 35 years of notches in her trivia belt, and her merry band of “Hobgoblins,” have benefited from the contest’s switch from an over-the-air broadcast to its current webcast, allowing her to maintain a beloved, decades-old tradition.

“We just love playing. We love the contest. It’s a lot of fun and it makes for a wonderful reunion,” said Stahl, a 1991 graduate of Appleton West High School. “And we love the fact that all of these Lawrence students have kept it going all these years. It’s such a unique college tradition.”

Despite her long history with the contest, Stahl first cued the DJ to play “We are the Champions” in 2015, the contest’s 50th anniversary. They successfully defended their title last year and now are gunning for a coveted “threepeat.”

“We are firmly intending to hit the hat trick this year,” said Stahl, whose own personal trivia tradition involves filling her front yard with pink flamingos the weekend of the contest.  “After never expecting to win for the first 30-some years, that would be a crowning jewel.”

Following trivia tradition, Lawrence President Mark Burstein, will start the fun by asking the contest’s first question, which, also by tradition, is always the final — and virtually unanswerable 100-point “Super Garruda” — from the previous year’s contest.

For one of the few times in the contest’s history, last year’s Super Garruda was correctly answered by the Trivia Pirates…Aaarrrggh. They somehow managed to come up Earwigs Rule to the question: In 1964, a band pretended to play Beatles songs at a battle of the bands called the Letterman Show. What is written in the top right corner of the page that features the band in a KWSS DJ’s copy of the lead singer’s 1965 high school yearbook?

Here are a few “softballs” to help everyone get warmed up for this year’s contest.

  1. In 1988, students at the University College in Dublin broke a record by debating, for 503 hours and 45 minutes, what statement?
  2. At this toy themed amusement park in San Diego, what guards the entrance to the ride immediately south of the easternmost green roller coaster?
  1. The leader of a one-man comedy synth punk band also has a website dedicated to images of a certain household object. What is BigJerk’s lamp thinking?

(1. “Every Dog Should Have Its Day” 2. A 16-foot tall LEGO pharaoh  3. “I hate the zoo.”)

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

On and off-campus teams successfully defend their titles in 51st annual Lawrence trivia contest

A Foolish Consistency is the Hobgoblins of Little Minds successfully defended its crown, winning its second straight off-campus title in Lawrence University’s 51st Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

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The new Trivia Master’s for next year’s contest get ready to hand out the prizes to the top=finishing teams in this year’s contest.

The North Carolina-based team racked up 1,220 points during the 50-hour contest that ended at midnight Sunday, Jan. 31, to edge Pugnugget and Corn Wars: The Iowans Awaken, which tied for second with 1,205 points. Holy Broman Space Team Presents 2016: A Honda Odyssey finished third with 1,110 points.

A total of 86 off-campus teams competed.

David and the Bucky’s Battallion Diabolically Antagonizing Tortured Brood-Makers, Basically Building Batteries, Bungee Jumping Blindfolded, Bizarrely Bludgeoning Bells and Definitely Ascending toward Brilliance By Dastardly Battling Together ran away with the on-campus title with 1,315, winning its second straight title. Michael Hubbard was a distant second among 18 on-campus teams with 1,101 points while Nipples of Knowledge: The Matriarchy: Ormsbae Trivia Team (The Experience, TM), placed third with 1,075 points.

For their winning efforts, Hobgoblin and Bucky’s were awarded first-place prizes of a box of Andrew Commons cookies and a package of Minion Peeps, respectively.

One team, the Kimberly-based Trivia Pirates…Arrgh, managed to correctly answer the contest’s final, usually impossible “Super Garruda” question: In 1964, a band pretended to play Beatles songs at a battle of the bands called the Letterman Show. What is written in the top right corner of the page that features the band in a KWSS DJ’s copy of the lead singer’s 1965 high school yearbook? The Pirates were the only team to correctly come up with Earwigs Rule.

The contest was not without some controversy. A team that was leading the off-campus scoring, had their point total zeroed out late in the contest by the trivia masters after it was discovered an individual on the team was also playing with an on-campus team and using answered generated by Bucky’s for the off-campus team.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Trivia Time: Lawrence sets the bar when it comes to all things obscure, inconsequential

It wasn’t so much “playing” Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest as a freshman in 2013 that got Jon Hanrahan hooked on the college’s 50-hour minutia marathon.

It was taking a break from answering questions to answering phones at Action Central that turned him into a contest die-hard.

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Grand Master Jon Hanrahan (center) and his fellow trivia master’s will oversee the 51st edition of Lawrence’s 50-hour Great Midwest Trivia Contest Jan. 29-31.

“After playing for several hours for Plantz Hall’s legendary Morgan Freeman team, I went to the WLFM studios and spent just as much time answering phones that first year,” said the senior from Johnsburg, Ill. “I remember being thrown off by all the clamor and the commotion, but I also remember thinking, ‘this was something I needed to experience first hand.’”

From humble phone answerer, Hanrahan has risen to become the Grand Master of this year’s contest, the exalted overseer of the 51st edition of the country’s oldest ongoing salute to all-things insignificant.

As per custom, the contest kicks off precisely at 37 seconds after 10 p.m., Friday, Jan. 29 and runs continuously through midnight Sunday, Jan. 31. As it has since 2006, the contest will be webcast worldwide on the Internet at wlfmradio.lawrence.edu.

Questions are asked in three-minute intervals, with teams calling in answers to a bank of a dozen or more phones staffed by volunteers in the WLFM studios.

Last year’s celebratory 50th contest attracted 65 off-campus teams and 29 on-campus teams, with similar numbers expected for this year’s edition.

Orchestrating 50 straight hours of the most complex, unGoogleable questions is not a task Hanrahan takes lightly, even though the contest’s long-standing credo is basically to have fun. Helping him maintain some degree of sanity while overseeing a largely insane endeavor will be 12 hand-picked trivia masters.

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Volunteers will be busy answering phones and recording correct answers in the WLFM studios during Lawrence’s 2016 Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

“I have spent many nights staying awake, mulling over detail after little detail,” said Hanrahan, who counts his selection as this year’s Grand Master as one of the “disproportionally” proudest moments of his young life. “The contest is a vast and complex beast. I’ve had at least three dreams about trivia and in each one I had to tend to something that I forgot or didn’t foresee.

“I really trust my co-masters to run an entertaining and relatively stress-free contest,” he added. “I’m excited about their ideas and their somewhat oddball perspectives. We’re all going to push ourselves to write creative questions that really stretch the possibilities of what a Lawrence trivia question can feel like.”

Since making its debut in 1966 as an alternative to an off-campus academic trip known as “Encampment,” where select students went off to discuss esoteric topics with professors, Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest has nurtured friendships and sparked romances — at least one set of trivia teammates became husband and wife — while spawning second and even third generation trivia devotees from among the original players.

Haranhan credits the trivia contest’s enduring popularity to Lawrence’s non-traditional “good, smart student.”

“As Lawrentians, we like to follow our passions, but we also tend to want to mess with things,” said Hanrahan, a piano performance major. “Trivia is that chance to be messily intellectual and creative. Do the answers to any of our 400-plus questions really matter? Usually, no. But for some reason, the players keep searching. By the time the weekend is over, the questions and the answers will drift away and yet, because of it all, we will have had a chance to see just about every nook and cranny that exists in the world. And we will have left our strange, ambitious mark.”

While Hanrahan hints at a few new twists up his Grand Master sleeve, he’s not about to reveal any of his plans in advance. It goes without saying, though, no one will be able to answer a single question off the top of their head.

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Concentration and great search abilities are useful skills during Lawrence’s 50-hour tribute to all things trivial.

“Even if someone is not aligned with any particular team or if someone is able to only answer one question correctly the entire weekend, we’ll do our best to make the listening itself entertaining,” said Hanrahan, who hopes to pursue a career in radio after graduation.

Following trivia tradition, Lawrence’s president, in this case Mark Burstein, will start the fun by asking the contest’s first question, which, again by tradition, is always the final question — the virtually impossible “Super Garruda” — from the previous year’s contest.

While it proved to be a stumper last year, it should be an easy “get” right out of the gate for every team this time around. To wit: Near property previously owned by Rockwell Lime Company is a manhole built in 1921 with an 8-inch diameter pipe leading downstream 226 feet. What is the manhole label and what is written on the cover of the manhole?

Surely written in notebooks and special files all over campus and around town is the answer “15-47” “Richards Iron Wks” (works).

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Two New Champions Crowned in 50th Annual Lawrence Trivia Contest

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First-year trivia masters get ready to award this year’s prizes to the top three finishing on- and off-campus teams during Lawrence’s 50th edition of its Great Midwest Trivia contest.

After placing second in 2013 and third in 2014, Hobgoblin of Little Minds claimed first-place honors with 1,236 points among 65 off-campus teams in Lawrence University’s 50th annual Great Midwest Trivia contest held over the weekend. 50 Shades of Trivia (1,225 points) finished second while Je suis Iowans, last year’s runner-up, placed third (1,217).

Bucky’s Brood of Burgeoning Butt Brigadiers’ Bizarre Belligerants Bird-Bondage-Base Burlesque Bonanza moved up from last year’s second-place finish to win the on-campus title (1,374 points), while Shrek/10 3: We Bought a Sherk, last year’s champion, settled for second place this year (1,347). Taking the Hobbits to #Octopunks is not Death placed third among 29 on-campus teams (1,141.5).

Hobgoblin of Little Minds was awarded a bowl spray painted gold for its first-place prize, while 50 Shades of Trivia received a gold-painted ghost wall décor and Je Suis Iowans earned a gold-painted mini wooden chair.

Bucky’s was presented a gold-painted old phone for winning the off-campus title while Shrek received a large, gold-painted car part and Taking the Hobbits to #Octopunks is not Death earned a gold-painted angel candle holder.

Once again, the contest’s final question, the Super Garruda, proved to be a stumper. No team was able to answer this ultimate brain tester:  Near property previously owned by Rockwell Lime Company is a manhole built in 1921 with an 8 inch diameter pipe leading downstream 226 feet. What is the Manhole Label and what is written on the cover of the manhole?

Make a note for next year since this will be the first question of the 2016 contest. The answer is “15-47” “Richards Iron Wks” (works).

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Happy 50th! Lawrence celebrates a not-so-trivial birthday

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Channeling their 1960s “Mad Men” era roots, 2015 Grand Trivia Master Weronika Gajowniczek (center) and her fellow trivia masters will oversee the 50th edition of the nation’s longest-running salute to all things trivial Jan. 23-25. Photo by Nathan Lawrence ’15

Can anything that survives for half a century really still be considered “trivial?”

A year older than the Super Bowl and tougher than the Seattle Seahawk’s defense, the Lawrence University Great Midwest Trivia Contest — the country’s oldest ongoing salute to all-things insignificant — celebrates its 50th birthday Jan. 23-25.

After 2,450 hours of competition and more than 18,000 questions since then-Lawrence senior J.B. deRosset first asked “Who was Superman’s father?” back in 1966, Lawrence’s 50-hour intellectual scavenger hunt has established itself as the game’s granddaddy, asking students and others to ponder the offbeat and obscure long before minutia ever became en vogue.

“Going into that first contest, I don’t think any of us contemplated this happening a second time,” said deRosset, who will travel from the warmth of Miami to chilly Cheeseland this weekend to help commemorate the contest’s milestone moment. “My mind was on being draft eligible for Vietnam, raging hormones and where to go to graduate school.”

Following tradition, the 50th edition of the contest kicks off at precisely 37 seconds after 10 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23 and runs continuously through midnight Sunday, Jan. 25. As it has since 2006, the contest will be webcast worldwide on the Internet at wlfmradio.com.

“Trivia is like a 50-hour super bug…you don’t want to eat, you can’t sleep and the whole weekend is pretty much a weird fever dream.”
— Weronika Gajowniczek, 2015 Grand Trivia Master

Senior Weronika Gajowniczek, who presides over the weekend’s craziness as this year’s Grand Trivia Master, says trivia can “infect” players a little like the flu.

“Trivia is like a 50-hour super bug,” said Gajowniczek, who served as one of the contest’s 12 trivia masters the past two years before being chosen as the grand master this year. “You don’t want to eat, you can’t sleep and the whole weekend is pretty much a weird fever dream.

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A small army of trivia masters and other student volunteers will man the phones in the WLFM studios, collecting answers and tallying team point totals during Lawrence’s 50-hour Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

“Most people don’t just play trivia, they live trivia,” added Gajowniczek, who spent 16 straight hours answering phones at trivia headquarters as a freshman. “For that one weekend in January, you forget about everything else — homework, sleeping, eating, hygiene, your sanity. Nothing becomes more important than answering those arbitrary questions.”

Aah yes, the questions. Written by the trivia masters, the goal is to make them as “unGoggleable” as possible. The result is such brain teasers as On how many episodes of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” has the game Party Quirks been played? (129) or Who is immortalized on a blanket as Altoona Area High School’s top football player of 1965? (Dick Bard).

“You just dedicate your weekend to frantically searching in the weirdest corners of the internet,” said Gajowniczek, one of only a handful of women to oversee the contest in its long history.

In addition to the usual array of wacky questions and theme hours — Death and Destruction, Meowour (a segment devoted to felines) and, in tribute to Gajowniczek’s heritage, an all Polish-related set of questions — this year’s 50th edition will feature a tip of the hat to its 49 predecessors. Once each hour, Gajowniczek said they will ask a throwback question taken from the archives of the previous contests.

“Since there is 50 hours and 50 years, it works perfectly, so we’ll base a question off every year.”

Last year’s contest had 19 on-campus teams and 57 off-campus teams battling wits and busy signals for the loosest definition of the word “prizes.” Gajowniczek promises a return to more traditional prizes this year.

“The last few years, the trivia masters would just find something in the studio and give it out as a prize and mostly it was just things no one would keep,” said Gajowniczek. “We definitely want to bring back the tradition of the prizes, make them more memorable keepsakes, commemorative. I’m not promising anything special, but nothing like a jar full of cream cheese, like last year.”

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J.B. deRosset ’66

For all of its silliness, the contest actually grew out of a serious academic endeavor, one for which deRosset was bypassed. After not being asked to join a select group of students and faculty for an off-campus academic trip then known as “Encampment” to the general student populace and “Entrapment” to its detractors, deRosset came up with an alternative to the academic retreat: a contest on the campus’ radio station for “the trivial minds left behind.”

“My junior year set it up,” recalled deRosset, an attorney. “I had accumulated some extra credits from an off-campus program at Argonne National Labs and arrived my senior year with little stress and plenty of time and brain space for some creativity. It has kept going because it went so well the first year and my partner in crime, Dave Pfleger ,was ready, willing and able to do it again. With two contests under the Lawrence belt, it had the momentum to keep on truckin’. I know it takes a lot time for the students to put this together. More power to them for keeping the tradition alive.”

Again per tradition, Lawrence President Mark Burstein will have the privilege of blowing out the first birthday candle’ as it were by asking the  50th contest’s first question, which, also by tradition, is always the final question — the Super Garruda — from the previous year’s contest.

No team was able to add 100 points to its total last year by answering the 2014 Super Garruda: In the final resting place of Copernicus there are pillars with graffiti scratched into them. One of these pillars has graffiti that reads “EM is cool” and “DW is ok.” What does the only music-genre related graffiti on that pillar say?”

Come 10:00.37 Friday night, every self-respecting trivia team will know the answer is “Punks is not Death.”

Attention Lawrence alumni: If you’re making a pilgrimage to Appleton this weekend for your annual trivia fix, we’d like to chat with you. We’re hoping to connect with several LU grads about the contest for a story in the alumni magazine. Send a note to Communications@lawrence.edu and tell us where you’ll be on Saturday and how we can reach you. Thanks.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Saluting the Insignificant: Great Midwest Trivia Contest Marks 48th Year of Serious Fun

Older than the Super Bowl, Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest is to knowledge what a Rolls Royce is to cars.

Knowing what Frank Zappa wrote on a poster he designed in ninth grade for Fire Prevention Week calls for a totally different caliber of mindset than your average “Jeopardy!” contestant.

Lawrence’s annual siren call to all lovers of the most arcane information — The Great Midwest Trivia Contest, the nation’s longest-running salute to all things obscure — celebrates its 48th birthday this weekend (Jan. 25-27) with another 50-hour marathon dedicated to mindless minutia.

Beginning precisely at the beautifully inconsequential time of 10:00:37 p.m., Friday, Jan. 25, the contest runs continuously through midnight Sunday, Jan. 27. As it has since 2006, the contest will be webcast worldwide on the Internet at wlfmradio.com.

Ethan Landes got his trivia contest baptism as a Lawrence freshman in 2009, manning the phones for answers for 12 straight hours. Seeing all the fun the contest’s trivia master’s around him were having, he set his sights on eventually joining them. His dedicated phone work earned him an invitation to trivia master status the following year. Three years removed from phone answerer, he holds the “exhalted” distinction of 2013 Grand Master, overseeing his minion of 12 other trivia masters.

2013 Trivia Grand Master Ethan Landes ’13

“We like to think we’re the coolest fraternity on campus,” said the senior philosophy major from Westmont, Ill. “Being part of a tradition that is almost as old as my parents is pretty special.”

Stumping Google

Among Landes’ duties as Grand Master is generating his share of the roughly 350 questions that will be asked over the course of the 50-hour contest, a task made all the harder these days with ever-better online search engines.

“Writing questions is close to impossible now,” admits Landes.  “I go about my day looking for things that may not have found their way on to the Internet yet. To me, the ideal question is one 10 teams in three minutes can answer. When that happens, it’s almost serendipitous.”

While much has changed in the nearly half-century since the contest began in 1966 as an alternative activity for students who didn’t participate in an academic campus retreat, Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest has steadfastly remained true to its founding credo of being pure entertainment.

“Trivia takes the most depressing month of the year and provides something incredibly fun at the end of it,” said Landes.

Over the years, the annual salute to the insignificant has become a much anticipated mid-winter diversion for young and young-at-heart folks outside the Lawrence campus as well.

A First Place Finish…Finally

Appleton’s Kevin Brimmer and his team of fellow “Iowans” caught a permanent case of trivia fever nearly three decades ago and have been die-hard competitors ever since. When the curtain came down on 2012’s contest, Brimmer’s “Iowans Who Want to Recall Trivia #nerdweasel,” finally captured their first off-campus team title.

“We know of 26 ways how not win the trivia contest, but we finally figured out a way to win it. The Iowans will be back with a vengeance this year to defend our hard fought first-place victory last year,” said Brimmer, who hosts a team of more than two dozen first- and second-generation trivia fanatics at his home. Some team members will be arriving for the weekend from as far away as California, Florida, and Oregon.

“The original ‘core’ members of the team are so old we had to ‘grow our own,’ and now our kids play with us,” Brimmer added, noting the team’s long-standing tradition of serving chili cheese dogs for lunch on Saturday is definitely on the weekend’s agenda. “This will be our 28th year as a trivia team and I think we can get antique plates for the team in two years. We’re working on our memoirs ‘50 Shades of Trivia.’ We might do Trivia gangnam style this year, who knows.”

While 2013’s Great Midwest Trivia contest will retain much of its usual “charm” — theme hours, eclectic music, crazy action questions for on-campus student teams, ridiculous prizes for the victorious — Landes also promises a few surprises will be in store, but was tight-lipped on any clues.

The Dreaded “Super Garrauda”

Following tradition, Lawrence President Jill Beck will get the fun started by asking the first question, which, also by tradition, is always the final, virtually unanswerable “Super Garrauda” question from the previous year’s contest.

“The pure joy you hear when someone correctly answers a Super Garrdua is unbelievable,” said Landes.

That sense of pure joy surprisingly was enjoyed by six teams last year after correctly answering 2012’s Super Garruda question: “In a comment card that was later pictured on a fence privacy screen outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in Summer 2011, what does visitor Tonee from Chicago state that they wanted to do when they viewed a Van Gogh exhibit at MoMA on March 28th and why didn’t they act on their impulses?”

Any 2013 trivia team worth its Internet connection will be able to start this year’s contest with an easy 100 points by knowing the card said: “Take a big bite out of Van Gogh’s work” and “lick it” but they didn’t because they “wouldn’t want to sully his fine work or disgrace your museum.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

The Ultimate Brain Tease: Lawrence University Salutes the Insignificant in 47th Annual Trivia Marathon

What’s older than the Super Bowl, more challenging than U.S. tax laws and highly likely to cause more insomnia than sleep apnea?

If you said the Lawrence University Great Midwest Trivia Contest, there is a team somewhere that wants to add you to its roster.

The country’s oldest continuous salute to the obscure and offbeat returns Friday, Jan. 27 for its 47th year of 50 straight hours of the most mind-numbingly insignificant questions imaginable. Following tradition, the playful questioning begins precisely at 10:00:37 p.m. and continues through midnight Sunday, Jan. 29.

Launched as an alternative for students who didn’t trek off with professors for an academic retreat, the trivia contest made its debut in 1966, one year before the championship football game that later became known as the Super Bowl was first played. Originally broadcast over Lawrence’s campus radio station WLFM, the contest transitioned to an Internet-based format in 2006, expanding its reach to a global audience.

“Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest is the greatest thing since Edison invented the electric hammer,” senior Jake Fisher said with a laugh.  A senior bassoon performance major from Lake Forest, Ill., Fisher holds the coveted title of Grand Trivia Master this year.

Like many Lawrentians, Fisher got hooked on the trivia contest as a freshman after attending a meeting in his residence hall about forming a team.

“My friends and I were really into the idea,” said Fisher, who personally wrote 40 questions for this year’s contest.  “Once the contest began, I became completely immersed in it.”

The sole purpose of the contest is fun and for nearly five decades it has attracted a loyal following of trivia addicts who take great delight in correctly answering ridiculous questions in the hopes of winning an equally ridiculous prize, ranging from a stuffed chicken with broken springy legs inside of a black cardboard coffin to a Batman stocking.

Last year’s contest attracted 69 off-campus teams, including a one-person entry from Japan, and 15 on-campus teams. After two straight runner-up finishes, the Trivia Pirates ARGH!! edged the Trivialeaks 1,275-1,260 to win the 2011 off-campus title. Morgan Freeman’s Plus Plantz’s Pecorous Pastures Propose Presenting Persnickety Penguins with Ponchos won the on-campus title.

Yes, clever, and sometimes borderline offensive, team names are part of trivia contest lore.

The contest annually provides the perfect mid-winter diversion for students and community players alike.

“There’s something almost therapeutic to it,” said Fisher.  “Winter term is always the hardest. Moral is lower, students tend to become more exhausted and drained of energy. The contest acts as a great way for students to take their mind off of schoolwork and give them a break. When the trivia contest comes around, it’s almost as if we’re not in school anymore. The stress of getting that paper done goes away and you get lost in the question searching. I’d like to think that happens for the off-campus teams as well.

“Plus, the contest also gives you the freedom to do something extremely ridiculous,” Fisher added. “Players don’t think twice about running outside in the freezing cold weather to do something absolutely absurd just to get 10 points. That’s part of the beauty of the contest. There’s always the fascination with searching for answers to the most ridiculous questions ever conceived.

The contest features questions of varying point values with hour-long sessions of questions centered around specific themes sprinkled in throughout the weekend. Without tipping his hand, Fisher promises Trivia opus. 47 will have a few new wrinkles under this direction.

2012 Trivia Masters (from left): Patrick Pylvainen '13, Chris Mlynarczyk '12, Provie Duggan '12, Ethan Landes '13, Nick Paulson '14, Addy Goldberg '14, Jake Fisher '11, Ian Terry '14, Maija Anstine '11, Geneva Wrona '12, Kyle Brauer '11, Travis Thayer '13, Micah Price '13.

“On-campus teams should be prepared for a little bit of cruelty,” said Fisher, among the latest generation of students who have turned matters of minutia into an art form.  “I might abuse my power as Grand ‘Dad’ Master. Nothing that would make people angry, but I do have some tricks up my sleeve.”

Following tradition, Lawrence President Jill Beck opens the contest Friday evening by asking last question of the previous contest.  Known as the Super Garruda, the question is worth 100 points and virtually unanswerable, but that never stops teams from trying.

Last year’s Super Garruda — “What was the log entry on September 29, 1961, at 2 p.m. PST in the Alamo Airways daily log at McCarran International Airport? — had teams calling pay phones and car rental centers at the airport, hoping to reach someone to help search for the answer.

“I was actually proud I could cause so much disruption at a place like the Las Vegas’ airport in the middle of the night,” said Fisher, who wrote the question that became last year’s Super Garruda.

While the question went unanswered last year, every team should be able to start this year’s contest with an easy 100 points because they’ll now know the answer is “Drunks called back. Left their pants in the apache. Said for me to take care of them.”

About Lawrence University

Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,445 students from 44 states and 35 countries.

 

All Things Trivial Saluted During Lawrence University’s 45th Annual 50-hour Contest

Drew Baumgartner didn’t know it at the time, but he was destined to become grand master of Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Contest.

As a youth growing up in Detroit, Mich., Baumgartner spent countless hours trying to impress his friends with his vast array of useless knowledge.

“There was a group of us who would memorize the most worthless things and challenge each other and no one cared about it except us,” said Baumgartner.

Imagine his excitement when as a freshman he wound up at Lawrence, home to the nation’s longest-running trivia contest. A year older than the Super Bowl, the 45th edition of the 50-hour contest dedicated to all things obscure and irrelevant begins anew Friday, Jan. 29 at its usual offbeat time of 10:00:37 p.m. and continues through midnight Sunday, Jan. 31.

“It was unbelievable to come to a place where everyone was paying attention to trivia,” said Baumgartner, a senior pursuing a double degree with majors in biology and music composition. “The trivia contest seemed like the greatest thing in the world to me.”

After playing for the on-campus Plantz Hall team as a freshman, Baumgartner jumped to the other side of the contest, asking the questions as a trivia master instead of answering them. Three years as a trivia master earned him an anointment as “grand master” of this year’s contest.

“Hopefully we’ll continue to deliver the kind of manic entertainment trivia players have come to enjoy and expect,” said Baumgartner.

When it was founded in 1966 as an alternative for students who didn’t participate in a serious academic retreat with professors, the trivia contest was broadcast over Lawrence’s campus radio station, WLFM. But since 2006, the contest has switched to an Internet-based format and will be webcast at www.lawrence.edu/sorg/wlfm/ allowing people all over the world to join in the fun. Among those forming a team this year will be Baumgartner’s parents back in Detroit.

Baumgartner and his team of trivia masters hope to ask nearly 400 questions of varying point values during the 50-hour minutia marathon. On and off-campus teams have three minutes to call in correct answers to such brain busters as what year was the statue of Tom Thumb, who died in 1883, stolen from his graveyard monument in Bridgeport, Conn. (1973) or how long was the scoring drive that led to Brett Favre’s first “Lambeau Leap” (74 yards).

Theme hours throughout the contest focus questions on such topics as death and destruction or all things Batman.

Last year’s contest had one of its closest finishes in years, with nine-time defending champion Bank of Kaukauna coming from behind late on Sunday to edge out the Trivia Pirates – AARGH by a mere 15 points, 1,465-1,450.

John Brogan, the ringleader of the most successful team in the contest’s four-and-a half decades history, promises his team of nearly 40 players from Wisconsin, Florida, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington, D.C., Illinois, California, New York and New Jersey have their sights set on winning a record-setting 10th straight title in 2010.

“We’re like the New York Yankees of trivia,” said Brogan. “Everyone hates us. Everyone wants to beat us. Everyone is welcome to try.”

The Trivia Pirates, a core group of some 30 or so die-hard “mateys” ranging in age from 6 to 60, including a former Milwaukee Brewers’ bat boy, would like nothing better than to break the Bank’s stranglehold on the off-campus title and capture its first crown since it last won in 2000.

“We are confident we will plank the Bank,” said Rocco “Sacco” Lemke, a Trivia Pirate team member and former performer with the 1980s punk band The Dead Milkmen, who will be coming to town from Philadelphia for the weekend contest.

Despite the competitive posturing, the contest always was and continues to be all about just having fun.

“It’s the kind of release everyone needs,” said Baumgartner. “You spend the rest of your life going to bed at reasonable hours and only remembering the things that are important. The Lawrence trivia contest is the exact opposite of all that rationality.

Sometimes a change is good.”

Two things that won’t change are the time-honored traditions of having Lawrence’s president ask the first question, which, also by tradition, is always the final “Super Garrauda” question from the previous year’s contest.

While no one was able to correctly answer last year’s contest-ending stumper, President Jill Beck will give all teams a chance to start out the 2010 contest with 100 points by asking who was going to be married next to what was the “world’s largest cedar bucket” in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in June, 2005, before it mysteriously burned down the week before their wedding date. (James Walters and Jaki Neubauer).

Nothing Trivial About This Birthday: Lawrence University’s Marathon of Minutia Turns 40!

Back when a first-class stamp set you back a nickel and the Beatles’ “We Can Work it Out” was tearing up the pop charts, Lawrence University student J.B. deRosset decided he would try to build a better mouse trap.

While no mice were ever caught with deRosset’s creation, he did manage to ensnare a generation of college students who, for the past 40 years, have turned matters of minutia into an annual 50-hour artform of outrageous questions and answers.

Welcome to the 40th edition of Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest, the nation’s longest-running salute to the obscure and inconsequential, where first-place prizes like toilet seats and bags of Ramen noodles are revered as badges of honor.

Broadcast on the Lawrence campus radio station, WLFM, 91.1 FM, the madness marathon begins Friday, Jan. 28 at the all-too-appropriately insignificant time of 10:00:37 and runs through midnight Sunday, Jan. 30. Fifty continuous hours of off-the-wall questions culled from the minds of a team of student “trivia masters,” all designed to challenge — and occasionally stump — even the best “Googlers.”

In honor of the contest’s 40th birthday, deRosset, who holds near cult-like status among Lawrence trivia diehards, is returning to the scene of the crime, flying to Appleton from his home in Miami, Fla., to spend the weekend as the contest’s guest of honor.

“J.B. is our Great Grand Master, our hero,” said Jonathon Roberts, a senior from Sturgeon Bay who is serving as this year’s trivia grand master. “If it weren’t for him we would just be sitting around staring blankly for 50 hours in a row this weekend. But because of him, we have an actual activity. For many of us, up until now he has just been an untouchable being of history. It will be an honor to finally meet the mythical legend.”

It was the dead of winter of 1966 when deRosset, then a senior at Lawrence, began plotting how to improve an idea he stumbled upon while visiting a woman-of interest who was attending Beloit College at the time.

“Some group at Beloit was putting on a trivia contest at their student union. My only recollection was that it was a lame, pathetic, pitiable attempt,” deRosset recalled of his original inspiration. “I knew it could be done a whole lot better. I came back to campus all enthused about how Lawrence could do a better job at a trivia contest.”

With the help of two friends who worked at the campus radio station at the time, deRosset started tinkering.

“The three of us created the synergy needed to create a weekend radio contest,” said deRosset, 61, who has since built a successful career doing legal and financial planning work for McDonald’s Corporation. “We spent a month or two drafting questions, each of us utilizing our particular specialty. Mine at the time was rock and roll. Somebody else watched too much TV, and another had comic books.”

The first contest — only 26 hours long — hit the airwaves in May of ’66, coinciding with Lawrence’s annual “Encampment Weekend,” an academic retreat in which select students and faculty members headed off to discuss issues of great importance. deRosset engaged those students who were left behind in an intellectual battle of a different sort, asking them to call in answers to esoteric questions asked during the course of a radio broadcast. The team that answered the most questions correctly received a fitting prize for a contest of this ilk: an old refrigerator filled with 45 rpm records.

Forty years later, the Internet has altered the trivia contest landscape — computers and laptops with high-speed network connections have gradually replaced mountains of almanacs, encyclopedias and reference books as the “weapons of choice” — but the spirit of the contest retains much of its original verve.

“Trivia is the perfect relief from the winter blues,” said Roberts. “Everyone is exhausted from the cold this time of year so the idea is, with 50 hours of sleeplessness, we push you over the edge into a world of complete ridiculous exhaustion. That’s the land where real creativity and fun lies.”

“And people love the prizes,” Roberts added. “I mean, where else can you win seven pounds of human hair and a broken TV in exchange for 50 hours of your life?”

At the time, deRosset had no idea his idea would have such staying power. But with the perspective of 40 years, he’s not entirely surprised, either.

“We had such great camaraderie that it was simply a blast that winter of 1965-66 putting together the concept and working on the details,” said deRosset. “I have to believe the same is still true today, even if the academics sometimes get in the way. It is sort of like playing football for USC or the University of Miami, but without the large payoff or the disabling injuries.

“From the listeners’ viewpoint, I don’t believe college humor will ever get old,” deRosset added. “As cable TV pushes the major networks to lower their taste thresholds to newly discovered subterranean depths, maybe the Lawrence trivia contest will not be that different. But I love the team names. I love the irreverence. I love all the strange pieces played during the contest, especially the Monty Python stuff. Most of all I love the brief relief it gives in an increasingly troubled world.”

From “Frying Nemo” and “Apocalypse Cow” to “Smarter Than the Average Bush,” creative, often outrageous and sometimes borderline offensive team names add a playful dash of fun to the weekend.

Playing this year as The West Bank of Kaukauna Concealing Weapons of Mass Deduction, a team of several dozen smarty pants twentysomethings who gather annually from eight states, including California and New York, has dominated the competition in recent years. The Bank, which has won four consecutive trivia titles and six of the last eight, will be among the 60 some teams expected to vie for this year’s off campus title. Joining the 8-10 on-campus teams this year will be a special team made up primarily of recent Lawrence alumni.

Bigger. Stronger. Faster. That is how Roberts promises to make this year’s 40th trivia contest.

“The 40th edition of the contest is a milestone,” said Roberts, “and we’re going to mark the occasion with harder questions, more extreme action questions, more ridiculous skits and more celebrity guest spots. We have been building this up
for 40 years now and let me tell you, trivia, like life, begins at 40.”

To help celebrate trivia’s 40th birthday appropriately, Roberts has organized a special “pre-contest” party Friday, Jan. 28 from 7:30-9 p.m. in Riverview Lounge of the Lawrence Memorial Union for all the trivia teams to gather and meet each other prior to waging their battle of wits.

New Lawrence President Jill Beck will make her trivia debut by asking the contest’s opening question, which by tradition, is always the final “Super Garruda” question from the previous year. All those paying attention should be able to start this year’s contest with an easy 100 points because they will know by now what casts a shadow on Jesus in the DeBakey Room in the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Last year, no team was able to correctly identify the cupped hands on a sculpture of Dr. Michael DeBakey as the source of the shadow.

For additional information on the contest or how to register, visit http://www.triviaxl.com.

In addition to being broadcast on WLFM, the entire contest also will also be webcast at www.lawrence.edu/sorg/wlfm.