Lawrence University gears up for another wacky weekend of trivia

The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 23, 2012.

Written by Cheryl Anderson
Post-Crescent staff writer

Jake Fisher is pretty proud of the 100-point question, known as the Super Garruda, he wrote for last year’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest at Lawrence University. No one came up with the correct answer.

If you’re curious about the kind of questions competitors spend 50 consecutive hours answering on a weekend each January, here’s Fisher’s pride and joy:

Q: What was the log entry on Sept. 29, 1961, at 2 p.m. PST in the Alamo Airways daily log at McCarran International Airport?
A: “Drunks called back. Left their pants in the apache. Said for me to take care of them.”

“It feels good,” Fisher said of the shutout question. “You definitely get pumped about it.” Yes, it’s time again for the annual brain buster that will be broadcast this weekend over Lawrence’s radio station, WLFM. Now in its 47th year, it is the world’s longest-running trivia contest because the last question from one year is the first question the next. Hint, hint.

Fisher, a fifth-year student and native of Lake Forest, Ill., has been chosen as this year’s Grand Master, giving him oversight of the trivia spectacular that kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday. So where did the 22-year-old music performance major (he has a Russian language minor) discover the 2011 Super Garruda question? On a winter break weekend with his parents at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, of course. “On our way to our plane while we’re leaving, you walk through some big exhibits with the history of McCarran International Airport,” he said. “And so I found (the question) in a glass case … and thought that’s got to be a question, and it became the Super Garruda in the end.”

Growing up, Fisher was never big on trivia unless it had to do with movies. “I was brought up in a family that was very knowledgeable of pop culture and we played different movie games, kind of bouncing off each other,” he said. “So I’ve always been a fan of movie trivia, but I’ve never been a trivia person up until I started coming (to Lawrence).”

Fisher competed in his first LU trivia contest his freshman year, and by his junior year was a trivia master. As is the tradition, last year’s grand master, Derrell Acon, had to choose this year’s grand master. “I’m very honored, I’m extremely flattered to be grand master,” Fisher said. “I’m very confident in the contest this year. … The questions, as always, are incredibly goofy and bizarre.”

The hunt for trivia
Per usual, the Midwest Trivia Contest will attract both on campus and off campus teams.

The trivia weekend is a family affair for the Griffin family of Appleton.

Greg Griffin, 53, a 1980 Lawrence graduate who now serves as director of the Warch Campus Center on campus, has been participating since the ’70s when he was a student at Appleton East High School.

And when his children, Kyle, now 24, and Marianne, 26, were in junior high, the three would travel from Iowa, where they then lived, to Wisconsin to play off-campus with Griffin’s team. When Kyle and Marianne attended LU, they played with their respective residence hall or fraternity. Kyle was a trivia master his senior year. Most recently, the Griffin family played the game in Marianne’s apartment on campus, where she served as a residence hall director, and this year will play in Kyle’s residence hall director apartment with friends and other alumni.

“It’s a lot of fun and a good chance to get back together with people,” Griffin said. The game has changed dramatically over the years with the advent of the computer. “Nobody uses books anymore,” Griffin said. “There were the days we had to bring truckloads of books into somebody’s house to look everything up, and now it’s all Internet-based. But it’s still fun looking up crazy, wacky things and sort of having a good time together for two and a half days.”

Griffin and his team won the challenge two years ago and last year came in third.

Just like Griffin’s gang, Fisher also is pumped.

“I always get extremely excited every time it’s coming up,” he said. “There’s the investigative part and there’s something about it that it’s the tradition here. It’s so crazy. The contest just gives you complete freedom to do the craziest things and you don’t think twice about doing them. And it turns out to be an extremely fun time.”

What: The Great Midwest Trivia Contest
When: Starts at 10:00:37 p.m. Friday and runs through midnight Sunday. Official team registration takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. Latecomers can register at any point throughout the contest, but will be at a disadvantage, point-wise.
Where: Anywhere you choose. The contest is webcast. Play by yourself or assemble a team. Teams are split into on-campus (Lawrence students) and off-campus (anyone else.)

2010: On the plaque for the Walt Haag Memorial Broken Propeller Award, who is listed as the recipient for 2002? (Not Me)
2009: Who was going to be married next to what was the world’s largest cedar bucket in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in June 2005, before it mysteriously burned down the week before the wedding date? (James Walters and Jaki Neubauer)
2008: In the Citadel of Opportunity section of “An Invitation to the International Olympic Committee to Celebrate the XIX Olympiad at Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.” there is a photograph of a girl wearing a sign around her neck. This sign bears the name of what notable figure? (Josephine Baker)
2007: In The War of 1812 Museum’s Jean and Lillian Hofmeister building, six caricatures are framed on the wall of the children’s interactive learning room. What are their listed names? (Francis Scott Key, Mary Pickersgill, Major Armistead, Rebecca Young, Carolyn Pickersgill and Neighborhood Cat)

On campus: Morgan Freeman’s Plus Plantz’s Pecorous Pastures Propose Presenting Persnickety Penguins with Ponchos (1,148 points)
Off campus: Trivia Pirates Argh!!! (1275 points)