In Pursuit Of An Amazing Event

Photos Courtesy Of Fred VanFossen

Photos Courtesy Of Fred VanFossen

Do you ever dream of creating the one perfect event that generates revenue, raises awareness for your organization, creates excitement for the staff members who work on it, and most importantly, is so popular it sells out every year? That dream became a reality for the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department in Indiana with the Amazing Race.

Now in its 7th year, the success of the race is so widespread that organizer Patti Davis receives monthly calls from all over the country, and even as far away as Australia, inquiring about the logistics of the race!

“The idea came from a fellow employee,” Davis says. “She convinced me to try it, although I’d never even watched the show. I still don’t.” Two local radio deejays volunteered to help with the planning. “These guys were such Amazing Race gurus they’d considered trying out for the network show.” Besides sponsoring and helping with the challenges, the deejays promoted the event on the radio and emceed during registration and the after-party. Their banter motivated the 200 competitors so much that they literally broke the door hinges as they burst through to start the race!

Help Needed

As with any new program, the first year was the most difficult. From past experience, Davis knew that success depended upon a core group of reliable volunteers—60 to 70 in this case. Each challenge needs three to four monitors:

  • One person to check in the team (giving a clue and instructions)
  • One or two people to serve as timers
  • One person to make sure the team follows instructions.

Davis begins securing volunteers 30 days in advance of the event, utilizing email, a news release, social media, and volunteer-match programs. After the first race was held, word spread about how much fun it was for the volunteers, and how many perks they received, so it became easier to find help. Now, about 75 percent of the volunteers return each year. The race has become a tradition for many families, and they’re starting to bring along extra family and friends to assist as well.

Think Like A Cheater

Creating and testing crazy challenges sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? How about wheelchair races, applying lipstick while blindfolded, eating worms, drinking canola oil mixed with Tabasco, building popsicle-stick boats, blowing Ping-Pong balls from cup to cup, being fed through a baby bottle, and bobbing for Tootsie Rolls in a portable “toilet” filled with lemonade? The most difficult part is trying to


think like a cheater. Since there are extremely nice prizes to be won, competitors are always trying to find a way to skip a step. Davis has “guinea pigs” attempt all of the challenges 2 weeks prior to the event. She even asks a husband-and-wife team, notorious for thinking out of the box, to study each challenge to ensure all of the instructions are clear and can’t be manipulated. For instance, one year each team had to purchase a list of items at a store; while there, the four members of the team had to keep at least one hand on the grocery cart. The youngest team member couldn’t keep up, so he climbed in the cart, and away they went!

Logistics And Sponsorships

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