The Great Midwest Trivia Competition strikes again for its 58th year

Midwest Trivia Contest advertisement on billboard in Wall, S.D. Photo and information provided by Lawrence University Archives. ARC2007-019.

Lawrence, one of the first universities established in Wisconsin, hosts a great number of long-standing traditions. Many of them date back decades and are still annually held on campus. While the 58th Great Midwest Trivia Contest may have started in the distant past, it will commence in the not-so-distant future.  

The Great Midwest Trivia Contest, hosted by Lawrence University, was first held in 1966. It is one of the oldest college-based radio trivia contests in the United States. From its founding, it has stood the test of time through both the 20th and 21st centuries. That is not to say the finer points have stayed the same throughout every year it has been administered, however. It has had to adapt to the digital age, where answers are only a click away.  

Senior Nick Mayerson, the current Headmaster of the contest, explained that to overcome the obstacle, the questions have become more riddle-like. They are newly designed to lead the participants on a “digital scavenger hunt,” drawing on the power of both technology and their own intuition to solve the riddles.  

The scope of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest goes far beyond the Lawrence campus and the Appleton area; every year, callers chime in from across the state, country and even the world. A Swedish team participated in trivia’s 50th annual run, for example, and in another year, a Japanese team competed from all the way across the Pacific Ocean.  

Not only do participants hail from all over, but many of them are devoted players who return year after year for the weekend of competition, including graduated ‘Trivia Masters’ who once helped run the contest looking to return to the familiar scene. Hob Goblin, a local team, has been playing for “decades,” according to Mayerson. At the 57th annual contest, he said that more than a dozen Lawrence-based teams and somewhere between “thirty-forty-fifty” off-campus teams took part, with victory claimed by a team of Lawrence students. Mayerson expects last year’s champions to compete again this year.  

To run the Great Midwest Trivia Contest at such a large scale takes a great effort. The trivia questions, different every year, are all the original work of twelve Lawrence student Trivia Masters who each write anywhere between thirty and forty-five riddles about any subject that interests them. They take shifts reading them off in the contest.  

Mayerson acts as the Headmaster, a position passed down to him from the previous Headmaster, who manages the Trivia Masters and takes charge in organizing the logistical side of the event.  

Midwest Trivia Contest advertisement on billboard in Wall, S.D. Photo and information provided by Lawrence University Archives. ARC2007-019.

The fruits of their labor will be presented on Friday, Jan. 27, the beginning of this year’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest. Registration begins at 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST), two hours and 37 seconds before the questions begin. While it is advantageous to one’s score to register before it officially begins, participants are welcome to register at any time in the duration of the contest.  

At exactly 10:00:37 p.m. CST, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest will commence, running for fifty consecutive hours straight throughout rain, wind or darkness of night. The first question will be last year’s “Super Garruda,” the question considered to be the most challenging of all. Teams answering Super Garrudas are allowed a whole twenty minutes to figure out an answer for a large number of points. Following the introductory Super Garruda, the Trivia Masters will take up the routine of one question every three minutes for a little over the next two days.  

Regular podium updates are scheduled for every hundred questions. Mayerson encourages players to “play as little or as much as you want,” opening the contest to both casual and hardcore participants.  

In addition to regular questions, the Trivia Masters will pepper in a series of ‘action questions,’ where teams work together to complete a task. From deep-thinking missions like composing the love song of the century to completing bizarre tasks, such as collecting the most human hair in the given time, the action questions have it all. 

Towards the end of the contest, when stakes are running high, Trivia Masters administer “Garrudas,” three difficult questions worth more points than usual that participants are given ten minutes to answer. For the final question of the contest, a make-or-break moment for teams on the podium, one last Super Garruda will be posed.  

The Great Midwest Trivia Contest will come to a close on Sunday, Jan. 29 sometime before midnight, and the results will be announced shortly after the final question. Prizes will be given out, all being works of the Trivia Masters’ own craftmanship. As for what exactly these ‘prizes’ are, Mayerson alluded to nothing except that they are “valuable in a different sense.”  

For those looking to try a hand at one of the oldest trivia contests in the country or those curious to find out what these ‘prizes’ entail, streaming will begin on Friday, Jan. 27 and continue through Jan. 29. The Twitch stream will be accessible at Contestants can chime in with answers either through the Discord server or by calling in answers. On-campus callers can reach the line by dialing (920) 832-7140, and off-campus participants should use the number (920) 832-7148.  

Volunteer opportunities for answering phone lines in Briggs Hall are open to all students.