Upon walking into the first floor lounge of Ormsby Hall Friday, Jan. 25, the unprepared observer might be alarmed by what they encounter: In the middle of the room, computers and phones crowd tables at which students sit like sentinels. Enough cords to put a LAN party to shame litter the ground. Off to the side, there is a table stacked high with necessities: soda, fruit, bread, crackers, and a plethora of other food items. Suddenly, the dulcet tones of Lawrence University President Jill Beck fill the room:”In The War of 1812 Museum’s Jean and Lillian Hofmeister building, six caricatures are framed on the wall of the children’s interactive learning room. What are their listed names?”
The 43rd annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest has begun.
The contest, now a staple at Lawrence, was established in 1966 by James B. deRosset. Although the format of the event has changed over the years, the general premise has remained the same: Occurring each January, the contest runs for 50 consecutive hours. Within this time, questions are asked over the WLFM radio station and both on- and off-campus teams phone in to the station with their guesses.
The addition in previous years of the action questions and especially difficult questions, called Garrudas, has enhanced the Trivia experience. At the end of the contest, The Super Garruda, an extremely difficult question, is asked. The Super Garruda is repeated at the beginning of the following year’s contest in order to maintain the title of “World’s Longest Running Trivia Contest.”
Sounds simple enough, but trivia is so much more than just, well, trivial knowledge. Over the years, the contest has become a phenomenon that can only be truly appreciated through experience. It has the power to make rational people stay up for way longer than is healthy, run around in January in ridiculous costumes or a lack of clothing altogether, and in general, have way more fun than is usually the case during the somber winter season.
This year’s contest was no exception. It saw the creation of a human race car, a team that lost one member for an hour and a half during the Batman action question, a rather racy board game, and an interesting use of diapers.
It saw the surprise second-place finish of the Plantz Hall freshman-dominated team, the first representation of a fraternity in Trivia in a long time, a long and painful stream of Cher and Prince songs as a punishment for a lack of phone answerers, and even some parental involvement.
“They stopped by to drop off a pizza, and then ended up eating pizza and playing Trivia for a while,” said junior Kyle Griffin of his parents, who helped his team, “I went Greek because Kappa Kappa Awesome was too selective.”
Of course, nothing encourages such craziness like a little sleep deprivation. Most teams had members who were averaging 3-7 hours of sleep for the duration of the contest.
“We don’t see sleep happening any time soon,” said freshman Peter Mancina of team six, “Morgan Freeman and the North Side Plantz Pants Peanut Planters Propose a Purple Potpourri Party While Peter Piper Picks a Peck of Pickled Peppers.”
However, the Yuais definitely took the cake for sleep deprivation. After doing a quick sweep of the room, a team member from team seven, “Bucky’s Banastitudinal Belisian Bovine Banan Boobies Benevolently Bouncing Beerylou,” said, “There are people here who haven’t slept.”
On the other side of the action were the Trivia Masters. Selected after a grueling audition process, these 11 Lawrence students wrote the questions, delivered the questions on air, answered phones, calculated scores, judged action questions, and otherwise kept Trivia running.
Among them were: Meghan McCallum, Joe Pfender, Erin Watson, Drew Baumgartner, James Antony, Chelsea Seremeta, Nathan Lane, Alex Macartney, Claire Gannon, Tim Phelan, and Peter Bennett. The Grand Master, senior James Eric Prichard, oversaw and organized the entire contest with the help of the Trivia Masters. Along with this, all of the Trivia Masters were required to be at the station at all times, excepting two four-hour breaks.
“I think that the craziest part about being a Trivia Master was that, even though I am used to staying up late and I had played Trivia for two years, it was so different as a Trivia Master. Even though I thought I knew what to expect, it was so much more than that,” said junior Chelsea Seremeta.
Although a stressful job, Seremeta said that the increased campus involvement really made Trivia fun this year and that she “thank[s] everyone who was involved this year.”
The contest ended with the traditional closing ceremonies. As shivering teams waited in front of the Conservatory steps at 1:20 a.m., trading friendly jeers with each other, the Trivia Masters arrived. Marching like royalty through the parted crowd, they made their way to the top of the steps and commenced their traditional chant.
Awards such as a broken telephone, a protest sign and a bottle of what appeared to be Clamato were awarded to the winning teams. Off campus, these were: Sub Prime Iowans in third place, 6 Feet Under in second, and Bank of Kaukauna in first. On campus, the winning teams were: 1972 Soviet Baskyetb****umlaut o***l Team Club in third place, Morgan Freeman in second, and Bucky’s in first.
After the prizes had been awarded, the Grand Master, with sword and glowing staff in hand, proceeded to name next year’s Grand Master, junior Erin Campbell Watson. Watson will be the first female Grand Master in 25 years.
About her recent appointment, Watson said, “Trivia uniquely bridges the gap between Lawrence and the outside world, and it’s a great way for Lawrence students to put their eccentric knowledge to use. I’m pretty excited to have absolute power over a large group of Trivia fanatics for 50 hours, but I’m glad I have a year to prepare.”
She also feels excited, if a little nervous about her position as the first female Grand Master in 25 years.
“I’ve received a lot of positive reinforcement about that from some female trivia players, which feels pretty good, but also gives me even more incentive not to screw up,” she said.
Trivia provides a needed release for people suffering the winter doldrums, and seems to be getting more and more of a following every year. The dedication of diehard Trivia players and Trivia Masters alike keep this a tradition that proves that in fact, there is a place for random knowledge.