Tag: WLFM

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.

A photo of Lawrence University Trivia Masters on the phone.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.

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.

The Shrekoning, Twerking for Trivia Capture Crowns in 49th Annual Lawrence University Trivia Contest

Shrek Out of Ten 2: The Shrekoning easily won the on-campus title of Lawrence University’s 49th annual Great Midwest Trivia contest held over the weekend. The Shrekoning racked up 1,398 points, finishing comfortably ahead of Bucky’s Banastitudinal Buggery Brigade, which placed second among 19 student teams with 1,232 points. David and the Bells Decisively and Terminally Bash Discordant Academic Teams by Dominantly Activating Technical Backstabbing, Dosing Amphetamines Triply, Breathing Deeply, and Trying Best finished a close third with 1,207 points.

Twerking for Trivia out-twerked the 2012 champions Twerking Red Headed Iowans Violating Innocent Appletonians 1,300 points to 1,255 to claim the off-campus title from among 57 teams. Last year’s runner-up, Hobgoblin of Little Minds, dropped to third this year with 1,205 points.

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Volunteers man the phones for answers in the WLFM studios during the 49th annual Lawrence University Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Shrek Out of Ten 2: The Shrekoning received a non-functional bong made of 2-liter soda bottles while Twerking for Trivia was presented an empty bottle of liqueur filled with cream cheese, which the trivia masters smashed on the ground, as first-place prizes for their winning performances.

A total of 416 questions were asked during the 50-hour contest, which ended at midnight Sunday.  This year’s contest featured a theme hour devoted to first-year Lawrence President Mark Burstein.

Unlike last year, when several teams were able to answer the contest’s final question, this year’s “Super Garruda” produced a shutout. No team was able to come up with the answer to this question: 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?”

The correct answer is “PUNKS IS NOT DEATH.”

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 2014 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.

The Ultimate Intellectual Scavenger Hunt: Lawrence University Trivia Contest Turns 49

The irony is not lost on Addy Goldberg.

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Addy Goldberg, 2014 Grand Trivia Master

The Lawrence University senior and selfconfessed “very bad” trivia player finds himself overseeing the 49th edition of the nation’s longest-running intellectual scavenger hunt — Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest — despite never actually having played the contest.

He joined elite company in the contest’s illustrious history by earning anointment as a trivia master as a freshman in 2011, a feat matched by few first-year students. After two more years as a master, he was thrust into the contest’s ultimate position as this year’s Grand Trivia Master.

“I feel like I’ve been raised by it, because my introduction to the contest wasn’t through playing it or through witnessing it, but through running it,” said Goldberg, who doesn’t have any freshman among his 12 trivia minions. “I feel a lot of debt to the trivia masters who ‘raised’ me as the freshman who had no idea what was going on, which usually is not how it’s supposed to go.

“Trivia in the general sense, the more bar trivia kind of thing, I’m actually very bad at,” Goldberg concedes. “I was actually in Quiz Bowl in high school and I was bad there, too. But I like weird stuff and I happen to learn a lot about it. I can’t exactly spout it off in a useful way sometimes but if you want to ask me what I’ve been up to on the Internet lately it’ll probably be obscure. So in a sense the trivia contest is pretty well catered to me.”

Q1. Who is the president of the micronation that fixed their currency to the cost of radishes in 2007?

Trivia-Logo_newsblogUnder Goldberg’s direction, bragging rights to the title of this year’s 50-hour contest — last year’s battle royale of all things obscure drew 13 on-campus teams and 61 off-campus teams —kicks off anew at the precisely appropriately inconsequential time of 37 seconds after 10 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24 and runs continuously through midnight Sunday, Jan. 26. As it has since 2006, the contest will be webcast worldwide on the Internet at wlfmradio.com.

Launched in 1966 as an alternative activity for students who didn’t participate in an academic campus retreat, Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest is a 50-hour celebration of all things insignificant, with 400 Google-challenged questions of various point values asked every three minutes, sandwiched around off-beat humor and eclectic music while teams scramble to call in answers to a phone bank in the WLFM studios.

Through its nearly half century existence, Lawrence’s trivia contest has enjoyed remarkable staying power, as Appleton in late January remains a destination point for many from around the country who return to the Fox Valley to reunite with friends and family for a weekend of fun and furious web surfing.

Q2. Which American state includes the greatest number of governmentally established plantations?

What’s the secret to the contest’s ongoing popularity?

“People seem to really care about it,” said Goldberg, a psychology major from Needham, Mass. “People are willing to work for it and put a lot of energy and effort into it, which is great, and there’s a lot of surprising energy there.”

Goldberg, whose doctor got excited during a recent office visit when he discovered he was examining this year’s Trivia Grand Master, also credits an intertwining of communities for the contest’s longevity.

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The 2014 Great Midwest Trivia Contest trivia masters, led by Grand Master Addy Goldberg (upper left).

“You get the tight-knit trivia masters who somehow manage to pull it together every year, and they are in debt to the players they see every day, their friends on campus, all of whom have a debt to the off-campus teams, the real lifeblood of the contest because they’re way more dedicated,” said Goldberg. “All the intertwining communities bring a lot of vitality to it.”

Q3. Zebulon Pike once floated all the way from Toronoto to Sackets Harbor, New York. What was he floating in?       

Last year’s contest came to a clumsy conclusion when an on-campus team posted the answer to the final “Super Garradua” question on Facebook, prompting the trivia masters to cut short the time allotted to answer the 100-point question, preventing several teams, including the defending champions, from answering.

“I’ve been thinking about that, but as of yet there are no policy changes we’re going to announce,” said Goldberg. “It’s certainly going to be addressed, letting everyone know, ‘Let’s be serious, let’s watch ourselves.’”

This year’s contest will provide Lawrence President Mark Burstein with his trivia baptism. Following tradition, Burstein will have the honor of getting the 49th contest started by asking its first question, which, also by tradition, is always the final question — the Super Garruda — from the previous year’s contest.

Q4. What three words are written in metal letters on the back wall of Cranky Pat’s in Neenah?

What is usually an unanswerable question, last year’s Super Garruda proved to be anything but as seven on campus and 14 off campus teams managed to get the correct answer before the contest was called prematurely.

The controversial ending was prompted by this question: Within a sculpture by Mike Sullivan, the creator of “The Sex Life of Robots,” there is a building called “Kino Ironhole.” What is carved into the pavement to the left of the word “lulu?”

All teams worth their smart phone should start the contest with an easy 100 points by knowing it was “Big Unit Jizzbot.”

Answers:
A1. Oskar Agustsson
A2. Maine
A3. Whiskey.
A4. Sing, Dance, Giggle

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 2014 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.

 

 

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.

50-Hour Salute to the Insignificant Takes Center Stage as Lawrence University Hosts 46th Annual Trivia Contest

If it weren’t for an extended bout of insomnia his freshman year, Derrell Acon might never have risen to the exulted status of Grand Master for the 2011 Lawrence University Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

“As a freshman, I was only sleeping about every other day as it was, so students in Plantz Hall recruited me for their team, thinking I would make an ideal candidate,” said Acon, a fifth-year, double-degree senior from St. Louis, Mo.  “There were times during that year’s contest I was the only person on the team who was awake.”

The following year, Acon helped Plantz Hall to a second-place finish among on-campus teams before crossing over from question answerer to question writer/asker in 2009.  After two years as a trivia master, Acon was promoted to the proverbial big chair for this year’s contest.

Acon said he was the logical choice to orchestrate this year’s quizzical craziness.

“I have the most experience.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to handle it this year and make sure everything goes well.”

The 46th edition — yes, the contest predates the Super Bowl by a year — of the popular contest dedicated to the world’s most insignificant facts begins its 50-hour run Friday, Jan. 28 at its usual quirky time of 10:00:37 p.m. and continues through midnight Sunday, Jan. 30.

Lawrence President Jill Beck kicks off the insanity by asking the contest’s first question.

As the trivia contest’s first African-American grand master, Acon takes devilish delight in the fact the he might be the answer to one of the 350-questions typically asked in a future version of the same contest he is overseeing this year.

“It’s an honor.  I can relate to Barack Obama,” Acon said with a laugh.

First held in 1966 as an alternative for students who didn’t participate in a serious academic retreat with professors, the trivia contest was originally 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/trivia, allowing people from all corners of the world to participate.

Questions of varying point values range from mildly obscure to the ridiculously inconsequential. At various times, the contest will feature hour-long sessions of questions centered around such themes as death and destruction or all things cats.

While the contest’s unpredictably accounts for a good deal of its charm, there is one certainty heading into this year’s version:  for the first time in a decade a new off-campus champion will be crowned.  The Bank of Kaukauna, which has dominated the contest since the turn of the century, winning its 10th consecutive title in 2010 by a mere five points, is abandoning contest supremacy for sociability.

“We always played to win, but we wanted to try something a little different this year,” explained John Brogan, who has hosted the 40-some members of the Bank of Kaukauna team at his parent’s home for the past 12 years.  “The team came to a decision last year that we were possibly doing bad things for trivia. Teams were consolidating for the contest just to try to beat us. When you just have a few megateams, you undermine the inclusiveness of what trivia is all about.”

Brogan said many members of the defending champs are returning to the Fox Valley from around the country for this year’s contest, but will be more focused on embracing trivia’s credo:  have fun.

“We’ve never served alcohol during trivia, but this year we’re going to relax that rule a little bit,” said Brogan, who has been extended the honor of asking the contest’s first “garruda” question. “In the spirit of trivia, we want to just have fun, see people we only get to see once a year at trivia time and just enjoy the contest.”

As always, the contest begins Friday evening with the last question of the previous contest — the virtually unanswerable 100-point Super Garruda question.  While no one correctly answered it last year, most teams will be able to start this year’s contest with 100 points because they’ll now know who is listed as the 2002 recipient on the plaque for the “Walt Haag Memorial Broken Propeller Award.”  (Not me.)

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).

WLFM Showcases New Studio in Community Open House

The public is invited to a community open house of the new studios of WLFM, Lawrence University’s campus radio, Saturday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. WLFM staff members will offer tours of the remodeled facility and give demonstrations of some of the newly installed equipment. WLFM converted from an over-the-air FM signal to an all web-based broadcast format last fall. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the station’s founding.

As part of the open house, a concert featuring the Lawrence student band 8bitbEtty, the Chicago-based band Piglet and the three-member group El Oso from Milwaukee will perform in Cloak Theatre beginning at 9 p.m. The WLFM studios are located on the lower level of the south end of the Lawrence Music-Drama Center, 420 E. College Ave.

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.