Nothing trivial about team's passion for Lawrence University's Great Midwest Trivia Contest

The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 31, 2011.

By Maureen Wallenfang
Post-Crescent staff writer

Lawrence University contest connects friends and family

APPLETON — The Great Midwest Trivia Contest is anything but trivial to some people.

The annual event at Lawrence University is a tradition for some area families, spanning generations. For them, trivia runs in the blood.

Greg Griffin, for example, remembers participating in the game sporadically in junior high school, but by the time he got to Appleton East High School in the mid 1970s, he was hooked.

"Growing up in Appleton, you know a lot about it," he said. "It's a sacrilegious and oddball competition."

He attended Lawrence and afterwards, met his wife Laura who, like him, was employed as a hall director at the university. They continued to play trivia for the next three decades, driving back with their children after they'd moved to Indiana and Iowa.

"In the '90s we won a half a dozen times. I think one of the names we had was Cheese Schnapps. We played out of a rented storefront and a photographer's studio," he remembers.

Today, the Griffins live back in Appleton, as he's the University's Warch Campus Center director.

Their daughter Marianne (Lawrence '08) and son Kyle (Lawrence '09 and a past trivia master) continued in the family tradition. Both are still avid players and are now employed as hall directors and campus program/services coordinators at the university.

This past weekend, Marianne's on-campus apartment was the center of activity for their team, "We Butter Our Bread With Butter," that included the family and alumni friends.

"Marianne's first Trivia contest was as a 5-month-old in Raymond House," remembers her mom, Laura. "She didn't help much," said Greg.

"What a freeloader," chimed in Mollie Bodin, Lawrence '08 and a teammate now living in Milwaukee.

Marianne Griffin remembers hanging out during Trivia when she was a grade-schooler and gradually jumping in by answering questions during children's hour.

"When I was 12, I tried answering phones. It was too scary," she said. "College students say inappropriate things."

She kept playing and her friends who were naysayers eventually got sucked into playing, too.

"A lot of people think it's really ridiculous, but you can see the moment they get hooked," she said. "There will be one question they actually know off the top of their head and they're the hero for that question. They get hooked and they don't leave."

The team name "We Butter our Bread With Butter," by the way, was a tribute to a German metal cover band that sang a version of "I Shot the Sheriff."

Their team last year, "Lawrence Undead: Alumni With Nothing Else To Do" won on-campus, beating the dominant on-campus powerhouse, Bucky's.

At midday Sunday, Butter was in third place, but had gained with a 10-point jump in the on-campus action question in which they dressed as characters from "Where the Wild Things Are."

But the lighthearted and sleep-deprived nature of the contest meant they were often laughing too hard to answer questions in the allotted three minutes.

"We were too busy calling Arby's," joked Bodin, as she made a boat out of Leinenkugel boxes and Lawrentian newspapers for the action question.

Arby's number was uncomfortably close to the campus station's. Another of her teammates said she had a foolproof way for them to win. "You rally," said Emily Mohr of Madison. "And then you wear hats."

If that worked, the team name would be on the top when the contest wrapped after midnight. Because the winners are announced after press deadline, the results will be online today at and in Tuesday's printed edition.

TRIVIA NAMES While some team names are perennial favorites, others choose a new name each year. Some of this year's teams: Fluffy Zulu Bunnies, I Got No Beef with Taco Bell, Unexplained Bacon, PJ Party of One, Beige Swan, Trivialeaks, Living the Dream at The Melting Pot, Smarter than the Average Bush, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, UW-Whitewater is Shoveling More Snow than Charlie Sheen, The Armadillo Appreciation Society, We Need More Cowbell Martha, Trivia Schmivia

ABOUT TRIVIA CONTEST The 46th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest — billed as a "50-hour salute to the insignificant" —was a round-the-clock trivia challenge run from the Lawrence University campus in Appleton. It was broadcast via Internet from Friday through Sunday. College students hunkered down in the campus' radio station beneath the Music-Drama Center asking insignificant questions. On- and off-campus teams called in answers to chalk up points. In the past, the game was played with reference books. Now teams gather around tables with laptops and cell phones. Some questions from this weekend's contest: What unique furniture gift was presented to Andrew Johnson in 1865 and who gave him the gift? (Answer: Trapper Seth Kinman gave the U.S. president a chair made out of a grizzly bear.) What is the rhyming motto of Dawson City, Utah's grossest attraction? (Answer: "You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but the lips have gotta touch the toe." The city's famous "sour toe cocktail" contains a petrified toe.)