Tag: Great Midwest Trivia Contest

Great Midwest Trivia Contest results: “We are so proud of what we pulled off”

Grace Krueger ’21 (center) led her team of trivia masters through a very challenging but successful Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The 56th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest thrived over the weekend in its first all-digital edition.

Forced to make changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of trivia masters led by Head Master Grace Krueger ’21 stayed true to many of the weird and beloved traditions that have been part of the contest for five and a half decades. Bizarre questions that focus on information searches, useless prizes, nods to the contest’s history, and interactions between players and trivia masters all lived on.

“All in all, the weekend went fantastically well,” Krueger said. “Despite some hiccups that are always going to happen with the adaption of new technology and the restrictions we were under this year, the contest was a complete success and we are so proud of what we pulled off.”

For a wider sampling of the 2021 trivia contest, see this playlist.

With the WLFM studio unavailable and trivia masters socially distanced, the contest was held on Twitch. The action questions were all virtual and players called in answers via a virtual phone line on a Discord server.

“Teams adapted to all the changes this year so well, and we want to thank them for learning with us,” Krueger said.

What, if any, changes will be rolled into the traditional format next year will be at the direction of Riley Newton ’22, who was announced as the head master for the 2022 contest.

Despite going all-digital and teams not being able to gather together per usual, this year’s contest remained a big draw. It drew 77 off-campus teams and 14 on-campus teams, featuring a total of 551  players.

Here are the winning teams (yes, the tradition of long and strange names continued):

ON CAMPUS:

1: Team 3, At this point, Why not trust an Aquarius Microwaving and Peeling and why IS [REDACTED] ON FIRE-oh yes, YES, Flambéing and society of bones and pyromaniacs (owo) cinematic Universe (TM). The previous name has burst into flames; like a phoenix from the ashes has risen as a virgo: 1,650

2: Team 1, The Gaming House Special Featuring the Nipples of Knowledge: 1,415

3: Team 6, joe and ethan funtime bonanza team: 1,315

OFF CAMPUS:

1: Team 135, Delguigi: 1,710

2: Team 112, are you the onesie #comfycrew: 1,665

3: Team 106, Hobgoblin of Little Minds: This One is for Sheila: 1,650

The Super Garuda was among the traditions that continued. The Super Garuda is annually a weirdly obscure question that serves as the final question of the weekend and then as the first question of the following year’s contest. Here’s your head start for 2022:

Q: The person who installed Pepsi machines on set played a Prohibition agent in a black-and-white film where Peter sets out to prove that he isn’t a boob. The title of this silent comedy is a featured comical word in a 2018 linguistics paper published by Canadian university researchers. A building at this university is named after a man whose last name is the first name of an actor who played a one-eyed man in a movie once described as having “all the appeal of a seaweed sandwich.” In this building, there is a large room on the mechanical floor directly below 2A2. In the southwest corner of the room, a red, graffiti-covered beam crosses the path near a door. A message is written on the wall next to the beam informing the reader of their odor. What, according to the author, do you smell like?

A: Cabbage

(It was answered correctly by Team 142: Beedough Beedough Beedough.)

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Great Midwest Trivia Contest carries on amid daunting obstacles, new rules

The trivia masters, led by Head Master Grace Krueger ’21 (center), will present the Great Midwest Trivia Contest Jan. 29-31 despite the many challenges of the pandemic.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The desire for trivia won’t be doused by a global pandemic.

It might look different. It might feel different. But the Great Midwest Trivia Contest will kick off its 56th annual edition on schedule Friday night, its team of trivia masters balancing a love of tradition with the realities of pandemic protocols that have forced a reimagining of the beloved weekend.

The passion and creativity of Lawrence University’s trivia weekend remains, even if some of the contest’s staples—the WLFM studio, the on-campus phone bank, the shared spaces of sleep-deprived participants—will not be in play.

The contest is being streamed on Twitch beginning at 37 seconds past 10 p.m. Friday and will continue until midnight Sunday. The action questions, a popular slice of the weekend, will continue but virtually—think variations of digital art—and answers through the weekend will be received in a mix of phone calls and a virtual phone line on a Discord server, all facilitated by 11 trivia masters scattered near and far.

“We’re nervous but excited to be trying new things this year,” said Head Master Grace Krueger ’21, charged with bringing all this together amid challenges unseen in the contest’s first five and a half decades.

Grace Krueger ’21

“I’ve been challenged to maintain 55 years of tradition without access to most of the tools we use to make it happen.”

Much of the weekend will be recognizable, keeping to traditions that have carried forth since the contest was first broadcast on WLFM in 1966—more than 300 rapid-fire and obscure questions over the course of 50 hours; teams organized to seek out answers via digital sleuthing or ingenious snooping; the awarding of weird and mostly useless prizes; the Super Garuda, the impossible finale question that returns as the first question of the following year’s contest.

But other elements have to change due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Trivia masters cannot be huddled together. Teams can’t physically gather as they once would, on or off campus. The campus radio station is off limits.

“We are entirely virtual this year, which means I’ve been challenged to maintain 55 years of tradition without access to most of the tools we use to make it happen,” Krueger said.

But there’s a will to make it work despite the obstacles, and in the process of finding new avenues, some pluses have surfaced. For one, the ability to interact in the moment will be greater.

“Our Discord server allows me to answer questions as soon as I see them, and it gives teams an avenue to connect with each other,” Krueger said. “And we’re excited about the inter-activeness of the Twitch chat because trivia masters on air will be able to read the chat and interact with players directly.”

Trivia players should make a Twitch account if they want to participate in the chat during the contest and a Discord account if they want to be connected with the trivia masters throughout the contest. No account is needed, however, for players who just want to view the stream.

Krueger, a theatre arts major from Branson, Missouri, called the adherence to tradition wherever possible a high priority as she and her team have pulled together the contest over the past few months. Once it became apparent that we’d still be deep in the throes of the pandemic when late January rolled around, it was time to explore what was and was not doable.

“It’s very difficult to balance the needs of the contest with this year’s restrictions, and, in some cases, we have had to make changes to trivia that go against tradition,” Krueger said. “Our main focus is making sure the contest happens this year and that it can be a positive experience for everyone.”

Bringing trivia weekend to life has always been a lot of work. Doing so amid the pandemic, with nearly half of the student body studying remotely and safety protocols forcing most interactions to be virtual, has added to the strain.

“Since the trivia masters and I meet virtually, it’s been hard to build the same sense of community because there are few opportunities to simply hang out and get to know each other,” Krueger said. “Additionally, all of us are under more pressure than usual because of current events. I’ve had several trivia masters drop out of the contest for personal reasons, which puts the pressure on the rest of us even more. However, we’re still super excited about the contest and we hope that everyone will be able to see all the hard work we’ve put into making it happen this year.”

Krueger’s team of trivia masters include Ellie Ensing ’21, El Horner ’21, Cristy Sada ’21, Mikayla Frank-Martin ’22, Riley Newton ’22, Riley Seib ’22, Caroline Rosch ’21, Mary Grace Wagner ’21, Nick Mayerson ’22, and Finn Witt ’22.

Krueger said she’s already heard from a number of long-standing players who have said they’ll play this year even if they can’t get together in person. Others, she said, will surely opt out. The contest typically draws upwards of 100 teams, but hitting that number might be difficult this year.

Tim ’10 and Molly Phelan ’10, die-hard trivia players since their Lawrence days, say they’ll be playing from their Chicago home. They know they’ll need to roll with the changes.

“While our team is often just the two of us, we usually have friends who come by and play on our team for a few hours throughout the weekend, but obviously this year that won’t be the case,” Molly said. “But we’ve had remote players on our team before and usually we just ask other players to text the group the second they get an answer and then everyone on the team tries to call it in, and the second someone picks up, everyone else hangs up to prevent jamming. In a lot of ways this contest will be the same for us as it has been in previous years—just two old alumni, hanging around our house glued to a computer.”

That, Krueger said, is the attitude she hopes other teams will take. She knows they’ll lose some teams, but she remains hopeful many of the veteran teams will still jump in.

“On one hand, a lot of teams who usually gather together for trivia weekend will be playing at a distance for the first time, and I’m not sure that’s a sacrifice they’ll be willing to make,” Krueger said. “On the other hand, the new virtual setup for the contest makes trivia much more discoverable to people on the internet, so we may see some growth in new players this year, especially since there are fewer activities happening generally due to the pandemic.”

Molly Phelan said she’s throwing nothing but love and support to this year’s trivia masters. A former trivia master herself, she has a pretty good idea of what they’re up against.

“As a small team, we come for the chaos, the search, and the comedy,” she said. “I’m a first-year choir teacher in an all-remote district, so I have nothing but respect when new technology works out, and nothing but understanding and sympathy when it implodes.” 

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

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With a focus on speed, Great Midwest Trivia Contest delivers winning results

Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor poses for a portrait.
Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20: “We had over 400 questions this year, which is something that hasn’t happened in a few years.”

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The 55th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest is in the books, and if you thought the weekend festivities went fast, well, they did.

The student-run contest was led by Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20 and her team of trivia masters, and they put a focus on rapid-fire questions during the 50-hour sprint.

“I was very pleased with the way the weekend went,” Taylor said. “One of our priorities was speed, as we know the players are here for the questions and not to hear us talk, so we made an effort to read new questions quickly. And it worked; we had over 400 questions this year, which is something that hasn’t happened in a few years.

“We received some really positive feedback about that.”

The winning on-campus team was Do You Really Trust Aquarius? The winning off-campus team was Get a Load of That.

For full results (and complete team names), see the Great Midwest Trivia Contest official page here.

The contest drew 13 on-campus teams and 70 off-campus teams. 

More trivia: Former trivia master wins big on Jeopardy.

In other trivia contest news, Grace Krueger ’21 was named Trivia Headmaster for next year’s contest.

Grace Krueger ’21 smiles as she's named Trivia Headmaster for next year's contest.
Grace Krueger ’21 is named Trivia Headmaster for 2021 at the conclusion of this year’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest. (Photo by Ethan Dorer ’20)

“My advice for Grace would be to playtest, playtest, playtest,” Taylor said. “That was something we didn’t do as much of this year, I think, and so we had more shutouts than I would like.”

As per tradition, the final Super Garuda question will serve as the first question of next year’s contest. It is: “A Facebook page formed by students at an Ivy League school crusades against a colorful sculpture installed on campus in 2016. On a web site run by students at this school, one of the directors of the organization that runs the site, which was founded in 2011, shares a name with someone who appeared on a show that ‘celebrates and explores life through food.’ On the site, there is a photo series of minimalist portraits with two of the subjects wearing silver jackets. In a stairwell of the building that this photo shoot was taken in, what is written in silver on a black door next to a wall of large blue writing.” (Answer: Apple Head)

A group of trivia players take a selfie at the closing ceremony of this year's contest.
A group selfie is taken at the ceremony marking the end of this year’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest. (Photo by Ethan Dorer ’20)

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest ready to unleash the usual chaos

The 2020 Trivia Masters are dressed for the theme of Apocalypse.
The 2020 Trivia Masters, working under the theme of Apocalypse, will present the Great Midwest Trivia Contest beginning Friday night.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21 / Communications

Here are the numbers: 300 questions, 50 hours.

The 55th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest will soon be underway, beginning at 37 seconds past 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, and closing at midnight on Sunday, Jan. 26.

So, what exactly are you getting into when you register for the contest? The simple answer is, a whole lot of fun. And a little chaos.

The Great Midwest Trivia Contest probably isn’t trivia as you know it. All weekend, a team of Trivia Masters dishes out 300 questions that require teamwork and extensive searching to answer; all part of the fun. Nearly 100 teams from on and off campus call in with their responses.

Since the first game appeared on the WLFM airwaves in 1966, the contest has become a Lawrence tradition of legendary proportions. It continues to air each year on the digital broadcast of WLFM, the student station that can be found here.

The questions come almost non-stop for 50 hours. Highlights include hourly action questions. Imagine, for example, measuring the distance from Colman Hall to Trever Hall using copies of Plato’s Republic, the beloved work that’s part of Freshman Studies. On the final day of the contest come the Garudas — very difficult questions — topped off by the Super Garuda, the impossible finale question that returns as the first question of the following year’s contest.

This year’s theme is Apocalypse, as you may have guessed from the Trivia Masters’ photos that can be seen around campus.

One aspect of last year’s theme, Fast, will carry over into this year’s contest. Questions will be given at rapid-fire speed to ensure that all players are kept busy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single dull moment in the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, perhaps this year more than previous years.

Allegra Taylor, this year's Headmaster, poses with the Apocalypse theme.
Allegra Taylor ’20 is this year’s Headmaster, leading the team of Trivia Masters.

Take it from this year’s Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20, a senior from Chico, California. She’s been playing trivia since she was a first-year student.

“Trivia was one of the reasons I came to Lawrence,” she says. “I got some friends together and started a team as soon as I got here.”

But she didn’t always have her sights set on being a Trivia Master, let alone the Headmaster.

“The thought of doing it was so scary because it was so much responsibility. I didn’t know if I wanted to take that on.”

The Trivia Headmaster oversees the planning of the contest, which has been in the works since May of last year. Taylor and her team of 13 Trivia Masters have been tirelessly coming up with questions. Taylor admits the duty of Headmaster feels all the more crucial at the 55-year landmark.

“That’s a 55-year tradition, so if you mess that up …,” she says as her voice drifts off. “But it’s been great. I have a great team of Trivia Masters so I’m really excited.”

Don’t let the fanfare scare you off. Taylor wants people to know that the contest is all about having fun.

“A lot of people think it’s a huge, overwhelming thing to play, but a lot of people have fun playing whenever they can,” Taylor says. “Just get some friends together and play for a couple hours on Saturday night. You don’t have to be competitive. It’s really fun no matter how much or how little you play.”

Mark your calendars: Registration for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest takes places at 8 p.m. on the first night of the contest. You can also set your alarms that morning to catch Taylor talking more about the contest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Morning Show from 6 to 7 a.m.

Head here for all the trivia tidbits.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

For Lawrence alum, “Jeopardy!” success bolstered by Quizbowl, trivia experience

Alex Damisch is seen on the set of "Jeopardy" during her fourth and final game.
Alex Damisch ’16 competes during her fourth and final game on “Jeopardy!” The screen shows what at the time were her winnings through three games. The episodes aired in late November. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Alex Damisch ’16 is a big fan of knowledge games. Now more than ever.

Her gaming history, which included stints at Lawrence University as a trivia master for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest and president of the Quizbowl club, paid off recently with a run on Jeopardy! that included three days of winning and a tally of $35,549. The episodes featuring Damisch on the popular TV game show aired in late November.

“I’ve been a fan of competitive knowledge games for as long as I can remember,” said Damisch, who lives in Chicago and works as a data analyst for Underwriters Laboratories.

She was drawn to the games while growing up — Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire were favorites — but it was her experience with Quizbowl while a student at Lawrence that really prepped her for her shot when the Jeopardy! cameras rolled.

Quizbowl is a team knowledge competition. Students at Lawrence meet regularly to practice and they travel to compete against other schools.

“Quizbowl asks about a wider range of academic subjects, and with greater depth, than anything you’d see on TV,” Damisch said. “I was never a dominant player, but it broadened my range of knowledge and got me reading about things I would have never imagined.”

That wasn’t the only Lawrence connection contributing to her success as she fielded questions from Alex Trebek on the set in Los Angeles. She credits her fiancé, John O’Neill ’18, with prepping her in the three weeks leading up to her Jeopardy! taping. She and O’Neill met at Lawrence when she was a sophomore and he was a freshman. He, too, is a big fan of the Jeopardy!-style games.

“After I got the call, we dropped wedding planning and pretty much everything else but work for the three weeks that we had to prepare,” Damisch said.

She used a standup desk and held a click pen to simulate a buzzer while playing along to old episodes of Jeopardy!, with O’Neill coaching and keeping score along the way.

“John worked in various capacities at the library for all five years at Lawrence, and he’s particularly gifted at finding resources on any topic you can imagine,” Damisch said. “That really came in handy when we tried to attack some of my weaker subjects, like animal science and older pop culture. … It says a lot about John that he would, for example, quiz me on Canadian provincial capitals and major cities well into the night without complaint.”

This marked the fourth time Damisch had auditioned for Jeopardy! — once as a Lawrence student and three times since graduating in 2016. It’s not an easy process. This time, she felt she was ready.

“The day after I came back from vacation, I got the call,” she said. “I admit that my first thought was exasperation at having to take more vacation time. But for Jeopardy!, you make it work.”

Damisch is used to juggling tight schedules. While at Lawrence, she completed a B.A. degree in mathematics and a B.Mus. degree in clarinet in four years — and served as a trivia master for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest in both 2015 and 2016. She went on to earn a master’s degree in predictive analytics from DePaul University.

Now she plays trivia games with co-workers and continues to volunteer for organizations that work with Quizbowl competitions. When she receives her Jeopardy! winnings in a few weeks, she said she plans to set aside a little for a honeymoon trip, donate some to Orthodox Christian causes that are important to her, and invest the rest.

And she’ll look back fondly on her Jeopardy! experience, even if much of it is a bit fuzzy.

“I’d say I probably remember one or two distinct moments from each game, the rest is a blur,” Damisch said. “It doesn’t take that much longer to tape an episode of Jeopardy! than it does to watch one. … After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Top finishers named in annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest

The 54th edition of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest at Lawrence University has come and gone, surviving a deep freeze that had everyone, thankfully, staying indoors.

The student-run webcast at WLFM Radio drew nine on-campus teams and 75 off-campus teams. The 50-hour blitz ran from Friday night through Sunday night.

Trivia masters taking a group nap.
It was an exhausting weekend for your trivia masters.

Here are your top three on-campus finishers (some team names amended as needed):

  1. Do You Really Trust an Aquarius Baking & Cooking and Sauteing, Save Big Money at Menards and Broiling and Flambeing and Freeze Drying Whole Milk Family™, Stir Frying Please Mr Morrison, I Only Have But 50 Shillings, and Roasting & Grilling Club, The Name You’ve Just Read Has Been Redacted; The Amended Name Now Reads … (sorry, this is redacted, too) (1,645 points)
  2. Coming Out of the Cave and … (1,635)
  3. Cole Foster’s One Long Noodle and a Fistful of Spinach (950)

Here are your top three off-campus finishers:

  1. Get A Load Of That Sandwich (Get A Load Of It!) Look At That Boulder! (That’s A Nice Boulder!) Look At That Sandwich (Look At It!) Get A Load Of That Boulder (That’s A Nice Boulder!) Look At That Sandwich (Look At It!) Woo! (Woohoo!) Woo! (Yeah!) Woo! (Woohoohoo!) (1,765 points)
  2. Cardboard Dave Presents: Red Dog, The National Beer of the Holy Broman Empire (1,730)
  3. Caillouigi 3 & Knuckles (1,595)

The winning off-campus team was based in New York City.

No teams got the Super Garuda question correct. Super Garuda, of course, is the final question of the contest and is worth 100 points. It also serves as the lead-off question for the following year’s contest.

Here is the Super Garuda: This Chicago restaurant serves both Italian beef and shrimp egg foo young, and may also be mistaken for a file extraction software. The street on which it is located is the first name of a man whose last name is the first name of a different man who began his own DIY cake decorating business. The man who shares his name with this street has written a book which purports that those born between November 22 and December 21 are “fond of horses.” On page 21 of that book, there is a car. What does the car say?

The answer is “OINK!”

Allegra C. Taylor has been selected as the grand master for the 2020 Great Midwest Trivia  Contest.

If you missed it, click here for our  guide — 37 reasons why — to the awesomeness of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

37 reasons Great Midwest Trivia most fun you can have on a cold January weekend

As campus traditions go, the 50-hour sleep-deprived, mind-bending adrenaline rush that is the Great Midwest Trivia Contest is tough to beat.

Those who don’t play may never understand.

Those who do play, well, pick your descriptor. Addictive. Obsessive. Weirdly soothing.

Lawrence University’s annual deep dive into obscure, insignificant, irresistible trivia is upon us. The 54th edition of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest kicks off at the very specific time of 10:00.37 p.m. Jan. 25 and closes at midnight Jan. 27.

Group photo of 2019 trivia masters
The 2019 trivia masters, led by Miranda Salazar ’19 (front row center) are ready to work.

This we know. The annual contest, organized and executed each year by a team of student trivia masters, is weaved into the rich history of Lawrence, a quirky Friday-to-Sunday blitz that is part of the student experience, a connection to alumni and an odd but fun connector to the greater Fox Valley community.

Started in the spring of 1966, it’s drawn attention in recent years from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, among others.

In honor of those bonus 37 seconds of anticipation on Friday night, we’ve pulled together 37 reasons why you should embrace the 2019 trivia spectacle for what it is: Fun.

1: Indoor diversions can be good. It’s a late January weekend in Wisconsin. Have you seen the forecast?

2: The world is ours. The contest draws nearly 100 teams, more than three-fourths coming from off campus. While most teams set up shop in or around Appleton, the webcast at WLFM Radio brings in off-campus teams from across the country and sometimes around the world.

3: Campus royalty. Being named head trivia master is, well, huge. Miranda Salazar ’19 has picked up the challenge this year. And it’s no small challenge. “It’s a 50-hour continuous event, and I’ve spent five times that on this contest getting it where it should be,” she said.

4 through 15: High honor. Salazar isn’t alone in her dedication, of course. She has a team of 12 carefully selected trivia masters helping her craft questions, doing the leg work and working throughout the marathon weekend at WLFM headquarters.

16: The president is all in. As part of the five-decade-plus tradition, President Mark Burstein will launch the contest by asking the first question on Friday night. Veterans of the annual contest know there is a head start – the final question from a year ago, known as the Super Garuda, is the first question of this year’s contest. More on that later.

17: It moves fast. Questions come every five minutes. Teams have three minutes to find the answer and call it in. “This year’s theme is fast, efficient, streamlined,” Salazar said. “We’re taking everything people like about trivia, everything we like about trivia and distilling it down. We’re trying to ask as many questions as possible, take as many song requests as possible and be as responsive as possible.”

18: Connections. Those who work the contest forge connections with those who came before. Way before. “I was emailing with the guy who founded it (in 1966), J.B. deRosset … and even he doesn’t really know why it’s still around,” Salazar said of the contest’s enduring appeal. “He remarks that it’s still living. That’s what he calls it, like a living thing.”

19: Seriously, not everything has to be, you know, serious. “I think it’s really that once you start playing, it’s infectiously fun,” Salazar said. “Once you have the bug it’s really so much fun. It’s a way to hang out with friends, to rally around silly things, to not take yourself too seriously while also dedicating your time to something.”

20: Cameras on campus: Spectrum TV was on campus last week to capture some of the fun in advance of the big weekend. Watch for it to air this week.

21: A podcast is born. Brothers Bryan and Matt Peters, Great Midwest Trivia veterans of more than a decade, love the contest so much they’ve launched a podcast in its honor. “We love trivia and the history around it and we want to see the contest grow,” Bryan said. “That is our goal with the podcast. Bring new people to the contest and bring back the people who have left.” The first two episodes of the Trivia Brothers podcast are up. Find a related Facebook page by searching The Trivia Brothers.

Head trivia master Miranda Salazar poses for a publicity photo.
Miranda Salazar ’19 is this year’s head trivia master.

22: Traditions rule. Part of the ongoing appeal is tied to the traditions passed down each year. Some are public, some a little more inside. The worthless prizes, the armadillo, the song “Africa” by Toto. “We have a pretty big community of alumni,” Salazar said. “We really kind of operate like a fraternity or sorority in as much as we have a group of alumni who we rely on and ask questions of and talk to.”

23: A recruiting tool? You bet. Salazar knows first-hand how the trivia contest can be a calling card for prospective Lawrentians. As a high school senior in Delaware four years ago, the trivia contest was that quirky thing that separated Lawrence from other schools, she said. “I knew I wanted to play trivia when I was touring Lawrence. It was one of the things that made me want to come here, that made it special or unique to me.”

24: Google is your friend. The contest has evolved through the years. Not only is Google now encouraged, it’s sort of required. The thrill is in the hunt.

25: A team is a team is a team. You can go solo. You can start a new team with friends. You can join an existing team. “My freshman year … I got seven of us together and we piled into a room and got snacks and made it our home base for the weekend,” Salazar said. “That’s how I got hooked on it.”

26: Victors are crowned: Come midnight on Sunday, a gathering will be held to announce the new champions and hand out those useless prizes, mostly found items from around the WLFM studio. A broken bagel, anyone? “The prizes are less than valuable,” Salazar said. “Also, there is a tradition to break the first prize.”

27: It’s not everybody’s thing, but it’s not boring. “When I started researching colleges, I always looked for something quirky or different and some of them are kind of boring,” Salazar said. “Schools will say we have a tradition that we all have a picnic at the end of the year, which isn’t really all that fun. But when I read about this (trivia contest), I said I want to do that.”

28: You can still get in. Registration takes place at 8 p.m. Friday. A team rep needs to call in to give needed team info. It’s as simple as that. Find details at https://blogs.lawrence.edu/trivia.

29: Creativity is in play. The action questions may require some dress up or perhaps some video production or in-the-moment songwriting. So that’s fun.

30: There is wiggle room. When calling in an answer, teams get three guesses.

31: Winning is cool, names are fun. Last year’s off-campus champ was The Holy Broman Lonestar Republic Presents: Cardboard Davy Crocket Remembers the Alamo. The on-campus title went to The Cult of the Pink Shoe.

32: Friends stay friends. Trivia remains a great connector once you leave Lawrence. “I’ll keep playing,” Salazar said. “There’s a big alumni team out there with a lot of my friends on it. But if everyone keeps playing on the same team, it’ll just be too powerful. So, I’ll start my own alumni team. I’ll give them some competition.”

33 to 35: Know your Garudas. Come late Sunday, things get tough. The three Garudas are billed as super difficult questions and come with elevated scoring (25 to 50 points instead of the usual five) and extra time (10 minutes to answer instead of the usual three).

36: The big one. The Super Garuda question always closes the show and then opens the following year’s contest. The 2018 Super Garuda, written by Salazar, drew no correct answers to close last year’s contest (it’s worth 100 points). The question: In the Tanzanian city whose name is an anagram for “A Salad Smear,” there is an intersection of two roads near the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco. One road shares the first name with the former Supreme Chief of the Gogo and the other road is named for a Tanzanian Sultan whose skull’s return is discussed in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. On the wall in front of the intersection there are three large legibly scrawled words in English, what are they? The answer: “The Jungle, Bob.”

37: There is pressure. Salazar is feeling it. “It’s a big job,” she said of this grand master thing. “This is a 54-year tradition, don’t mess it up.”

If you play

What: Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest

When: Begins at 10:00.37 p.m. Friday and runs through midnight on Sunday.

Where: Streams live on WLFM, the school’s radio station, https://wlfmradio.lawrence.edu

 

 

 

The ultimate cerebral scrum: Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia contest promises 50-hours of maddening fun

Late January in Appleton is not only stocking cap time, it’s thinking cap time.

Jenny Hanrahan
Senior Jenny Hanrahan has the honor of serving as the head master of 2018 edition of Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Hundreds — thousands? — of minutiae aficionados near and far will don their best thinking caps Jan. 26-28 for the 53rd edition of Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest, the nation’s longest-running tribute to all things unimportant, insignificant and inconsequential.

A year older than the Super Bowl, the 50-hour contest returns with its world-wide webcast Friday at its traditionally quirky 10:00.37 p.m. start time and runs non-stop until midnight Sunday. Featuring nearly 400 of the most difficult questions imaginable, all written by Lawrence student trivia masters, the contest originates from the studio of wlfmradio. Team registration begins at 8 p.m. Friday.

Overseeing this year’s contest fittingly is senior Jenny Hanrahan, a nugget of trivia herself as the younger sister of Jon Hanrahan, the head trivia master of the 2016 contest. Together they are believed to be the only siblings ever to direct the contest, which began in 1966. Jenny also holds the distinction of becoming a trivia master without ever having played the contest herself as a Lawrence student.

“I played trivia as a senior in high school, my brother’s first year as a trivia master. That’s how I knew about it,” said Hanrahan, an anthropology and theatre arts major from Johnsburg, Ill. “I came to Appleton to visit that year. The friend I stayed with was worried because the team I was joining was very intense and she didn’t know if I would like it. But it was the type of zone that I was super into. They were so committed and it was so much fun.

“I came to Lawrence as a student the next year and became a trivia master immediately,” added Hanrahan, a rare four-year trivia master. “I only actually played trivia during high school. Sometimes, when I’m on a break, I’ll sneak into a team’s room and play a few questions just to see if I’m any good at it. I’m usually not.”

Jenny Hanrahan in the WLFM studios
As this year’s head master, senior Jenny Hanrahan will be on the mic to open the webcast of the 2018 Great Midwest Trivia contest precisely at 10:00.37 Friday evening.

Nearly 100 teams — 80 off-campus and 18 on-campus — competed in last year’s cerebral scrum with Madison-based Holy Broman Literary Society. Led by 2013 Lawrence graduate Andrew Kraemer, the team won its first ever off-campus title, finishing 18 points ahead of two-time defending champion Hobgoblins of Little Minds from North Carolina.

Moving the team’s home base to Minneapolis this year, Kraemer said they have players coming from five states in defense of their title. Kraemer himself will be flying in from Austin, Texas, to join his teammates.

As for becoming back-to-back champions, Kraemer conceded, “There are a lot of really good people out there, a lot of good teams. But we are going to try our best. We’ve picked up a couple of incredible people who fell in love with the game and have a real passion for it.”

“It’s so stupidly fun in the most irrational way. I can never explain it because I don’t even know why I love it so much.”
— Jenny Hanrahan 2018 trivia head master

When the final results were announced last year and Holy Broman Literary Society was declared the off-campus champions, Kraemer said the team was nothing short of ecstatic.

“We all jumped up at two in the morning shouting in my Madison and screamed so loud that a dog in the apartment actually got scared and threw up.”

While off-campus participation has remained strong through the years, one of Hanrahan’s goals for this year’s contest is to engage more students on campus and have at least one team in every residence hall.

“There’s always been a culture of stress at Lawrence; I don’t have time for anything,” said Hanrahan. “It’s not necessarily a negative reaction, but often the response is ‘I don’t have time for it,’ because trivia can be time consuming. But the great thing about playing trivia is that you can dedicate as much or as little time to it as you want. We hope the RLAs (residence life advisors) can make sure there is a space for people to play if they want to play.”

Group shot of 2018 trivia masters
Head master Jenny Hanrahan (standing) and her fellow trivia masters will oversee this year’s contest.

For more than five decades, Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia contest has been intoxicating sleep-deprived players of all ages with its mix of ridiculously difficult questions, eclectic music and completely useless prizes. Like a Super Garruda, the impossible question is “Why?”

“It’s so stupidly fun in the most irrational way,” said Hanrahan. “I can never explain it because I don’t even know why I love it so much. But when I played it the first time, I was immediately hooked. It’s just the weekend for forgetting everything else.”

“Once I became a trivia master, it’s still stupidly fun in a different way,” she added. “There is that excitement and pride in helping to run the contest. It’s especially exciting talking to alumni that this has meant the world to for decades. I’ve heard some describe it as their ‘homecoming.’”

According to Kraemer, the trivia contest’s attraction is all about the chance to the outside world on pause for a while.

“For the other 363 days of the year, you have to be another person, so for the two days of the contest, you get to devote yourself to something that’s totally fun.”

For any trivia novices contemplating a toe dip into the contest, Hanrahan offers some practical advice from the head master’s chair.

Students answering phones during the trivia contest in the WLFM studios
The WLFM studios will be busy once again as answers to questions during the 50-hour Great Midwest Trivia contest light up the phone lines.

“First thing is it’s worth it to play, whether you’re with a super committed team or you just want to hang out and see what it’s all about. Know that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s 50 hours! You need to allocate your time and resources accordingly. Make sure you schedule someone to answer questions during that 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. time period. Most importantly, you have to have an open mind to be able to enjoy it, otherwise it’s so overwhelming and daunting. If you come in, ready for strange things and different things, you’ll have an amazing time.”

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

Any trivia team worth their laptop will start the 2018 contest by knowing the answer to this opening whopper: 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 8? (Dickid).

Bring on the madness.

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 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.

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.

A photo of Lawrence University Trivia Headmaster Ridley Tankersley.
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 photo of Lawrence University headmaster dressing up as a Joker, surrounded by trivia masters holding up large playing cards.
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.