Culture Dose: Emerald City Search

Lace up those running shoes; a treasure hunt for adults is just days away.

Looking for an excuse to channel your inner child and return to days of carefree play? You’re in luck. After a year hiatus, Emerald City Search returns this Saturday, April 21, at 6 a.m., to kick off the first of two citywide treasure hunts taking place this year. (The second hunt happens October 21, and the two searches bookend Seattle Center’s Next Fifty celebration.) Entry to the treasure hunt is free and open to the public.

Bumbershoot 2011 by Christopher Nelson

The game: One clue is revealed every morning for a maximum of 10 days, and all the hints point toward a hidden prize medallion. This year a theme of “history” weaves its way into each daily clue (with a specific focus on the legacy of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair). The incentive? The winning team gets to keep the medallion and receives an incredible prize package–valued at nearly $9,000 (a treasure trove that includes Platinum Passes to Bumbershoot, tickets to see the Rat City Rollergirls, an overnight stay at Edgewater Hotel, a VIP pass to ride the Seattle Monorail through January 2013, VIP show invites from KEXP, a dinner for two atop the Space Needle and so much more). Not too shabby, eh?

Read below to learn some info and tips from past winners.

Q&A with Kem Valliant-Saunders, 2010 winner

Seattleite: How many people were on your team?

Kem Valliant-Saunders: A total of 3. My original partner, Leigh Ann Johnson, had already won in a previous year and was debating whether it was cool to try to win it again, so she helped with the first clues and provided some various input throughout the hunt. The third person was Patrick Gibbs, who I spent most of my time looking for the medallion with.

S: Can you briefly explain how the game works for those interested in playing this year?

KVS: Emerald City Search is an annual treasure hunt that takes place over the course of at most ten days all across Seattle. One clue is announced every day, and the search teams have to figure out where the prize medallion is hidden based on the clues. The first person to figure out the hiding spot not only gets to keep the medallion (for us I think we found it after clue #7), but they also win a huge prize package (we had trouble splitting it between three people since there was just so much stuff to do and see).

S: What clue did you find easiest? Hardest?

KVS: The last clue (clue 7) was the easiest for me, and I knew where the medallion was right away. The hardest was the clue about Ruby’s since I wasn’t sure if they were talking about where the medallion was or what it looked like (turns out there was a ruby on top of the umbrella-shaped medallion; also, there used to be a Ruby’s restaurant where Swedish First Hill is located). I would say that all the clues are pretty out there. I think since they are themed people tend to get the theme confused with where it might be (i.e. last year a lot of people looked in Seattle Center; however, that was the theme of the hunt and not necessarily where the medallion would be located).

S: Any funny stories or anecdotes about events that happened throughout your hunt?

KVS: We spent an entire day in Pioneer Square the day/night we won. We looked everywhere. We actually passed where the medallion was and didn’t look there because it had construction on the sidewalk in front of it. It was a lot of fun to just walk around and spend a day chatting…We sat in Pat’s car in the ID waiting for the last clue to come out and, when it did, I had Pat read it twice, and I knew where it was (approximately). Pat, who had been reading the ECS blog, heard that a bunch of folks had descended onto where the Fun Forrest used to be at Seattle Center and started cursing that maybe we had it wrong all along. I told him, “No, it’s by the QWEST parking lot, across from the Pyramid Brewery where all that ivy is—we walked by there today a couple times.” So we went and looked there and, lo and behold, after searching the thicker ivy parts…in less than 5 minutes, I had found the medallion.

When I found the medallion I scared the bejesus out of a homeless guy because I was screaming joyful screams…it was a pretty awesome feeling. I think he thought I lost my phone.

S: Why do you recommend fellow Seattleites join in on the fun?

KVS: It’s super fun to do this with friends and just try to figure out the clues together. You end up going out at hours in the morning that you wouldn’t normally; you get to learn about the city and the history (which is really diverse and pretty dang awesome). And if you pick the right person to go with, you end up generally just having a great time.

S: Any tips?

KVS: The first 2-3 clues usually describe what the medallion looks like. I didn’t start looking around the city until about clue 4…then it’s all about Google and your knowledge of Seattle. Having a partner is definitely key, since some of the clues are red herrings and your partner can help you to interpret the clues differently if you’re getting stuck. Do not confuse the theme for the area that the medallion may be in.

Q&A with Rachel Collins, 2009 Winner

Seattleite: What year(s) did you participate, and will you be participating again this year?

RC: I participated in 2009. I might do it again, but something is telling me to stop while I’m ahead!

S: Any funny stories or anecdotes about events that happened throughout your hunt?

RC: One of the clues referenced a bridge, as in a section of music. The writer of the clue had also intended it to reference the Fremont Bridge. Since we didn’t know what bridge it was talking about, we ended up crawling under the various bridges in Seattle looking for anything that could be a medallion. For anyone who has not spent extended periods of time under bridges, they are pretty gross. They reek of urine, have tons of trash under them and are homes for the rodent population of Seattle. My ex-boyfriend and I eventually realized that the organizers of the Emerald City Search probably didn’t intend for us to be sorting through garbage in the middle of the night in poorly lit areas, so we changed our tactics.

S: Any tips?

RC: Search with other people. While I technically found the medallion, it was my ex-boyfriend’s idea to check the round metal discs all around the city of Seattle. I wouldn’t have found it without that input. It’s a team effort!

S: Why do you recommend fellow Seattleites join in on the fun?

RC: It’s a great way to get to know different parts of the city. One year I tried to find the medallion unsuccessfully, and a clue took me to Harbor Island for a day—such an important part of Seattle I never even knew existed. I grew up here, and it was fun to piece together clues about a city that I know and love.

One of the coolest things for me, besides finding the medallion of course, was that I won thousands of dollars in prizes related to music when I had virtually no knowledge of the Seattle music scene. Before winning the prize, I had never been to a concert in Seattle. I am so grateful that I had free tickets to shows around the city for a year, because I never would have experienced this part of Seattle culture if I hadn’t won. Now I still go back to the venues I enjoyed, and I have a greater appreciation for the arts in this city. It was awesome to continue to explore the city for a whole year after the search was over. And I know this year’s prize package is even bigger!