Oglesby fest has teams scrambling for fun, cash

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OGLESBY — These days, event organizers are looking for a way to set their community apart from the host of activities and festivals competing for a place on families’ event-oriented and fuller-than-ever calendars.

Oglesby seems to have done just that with the Scramble, the city’s version of the television show “The Amazing Race” thrown together with an old-fashioned scavenger hunt — the only one of its kind in the area.

This year’s Scramble will take place at 11 a.m. Oct. 5. Scrambling twosomes will begin at the Dickinson House and traipse around town, solving clues, tackling mind-bending riddles and laughing through physical tasks. For their efforts, teams could take home one of a handful of hefty cash prizes, including a $300 first prize.

“This is as close to any kind of Amazing Race that we’re going to get to,” said Mitzi Banich, who has smiled her way through two Scrambles with teammate and friend Connie Schwingle. “We’re not going to be able to race around the world, so we just do around Oglesby.”

Past years’ Scramble challenges have included everything from dancing with the LP Cavalettes to solving a clue-themed riddle, counting dozens of books on a library shelf, bowling at Dickinson House, singing Jailhouse Rock at the police station, doing the chicken dance at a local watering hole, and collecting certain items for the food pantry.

The Scramble was born of Mayor Don Finley and city clerk Becky Clinard’s mutual love for “The Amazing Race.” The pair’s creativity has driven the Scramble in past years — and even pushed it a touch too far.

“We have three races under our belts now, and we’ve learned a bit with each one,” Clinard said. “The first year, we were just testing the waters. By years two and three, we got a bit more creative — but maybe tested our teams a bit too much.

“This year, we’re reigning it in some. We don’t want to lose teams — too beleaguered to finish — and we want to tighten up the schedule — not go as long.”

The focus, committee members say, will be on fun.

And for some teams, the fun won’t stop at the finish line.

In addition to the $300 first-place prize, the city will award $200 for second place, $100 for third place and a $50 best-dressed award. Special $100 prizes will be given to the first youth (age 13 to 21) and Seasoned Scrambler (40-plus) teams to cross the line.

Though markedly unique, the Scramble is still vying for participants on a busy weekend, particularly for the youth. Finley and Clinard hoped the Scramble would be a way to draw in the oft-excluded young adult crowd. They’ve bumped up the start time this year to, they hope, accommodate more homecoming-bound or otherwise commitment-heavy teens.

All ages are welcome, of course, as there’s plenty of fun and prizes to go around.

“It’s fun to be running around town and trying to figure things out,” Banich said.

“And, too, sometimes you don’t have the right thing in mind, so you have to backtrack,” she laughs. “But that’s part of the fun.

“We’re just glad when we finish!”

Teams can register in advance for a $25 team fee. Forms and waivers — along with more information — is available on the Scramble website, www.oglesbyscramble.com. Race-day registration is available for $30. Team check-in begins at 10:30 a.m. the day of the Scramble, with costume judging at 10:45 a.m.

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