Get ready for some trivia

Annual Lawrence marathon contest begins Friday
by Sandy Mickelson
The Oshkosh Northwestern, January 25, 1996.

During Dan Kirk's crazy days at Menasha High School 14 years ago, he and friends entered Lawrence University's mother of minutia trivia contest.

On Friday, he and about 10 friends will join ranks in Kirk's Menasha home to continue the tradition during the 30th annual Midwest Trivia Contest sponsored by the Appleton university.

The first question they'll hear is last year's final question: "In what building did William H. Ashley take his oath as lieutenant governor of Missouri on Sept. 19, 1820?"

And, since they're trivia sensitive, the group will know the answer: Major Biddle's Missouri Hotel.

"The best we've ever done is 10th place," Kirk said. 'We're a casual team."

Casual maybe, but not stupid, he says. Members of the Midwest Juggling Company: Entertainment with Balls team will take turns sleeping during the 50-hour trivia marathon. Although the group professes to compete for fun, its members have gone as far as buying the reference books they've found most helpful. And no alcohol is allowed because it dulls the senses.

"So we have a wide variety of caffeinated beverages," he said, laughing. Kirk's explanation for continuing competition is simple.

"We're weird," he said. "And we like to think we're intelligent."

That could be the calling card for anyone involved in the contest, according to student trivia master Todd Wilkinson. "If you're crazy enough, you go to the interview," he said. "This year we inducted six new masters.”

These Lawrence student masters spend most of the year writing close to 400 questions needed for the annual contest.

"I try to keep a pad of paper with me when I go somewhere to write down what I think might be an interesting question," he said. "And we document the source. We're very particular about that."

Questions are broadcast over the campus radio station WLFM, 91.1 FM, from 10 p.m. Friday night through midnight Sunday. Teams - on-campus and off-campus -have five minutes to call in the answer. The more difficult questions get a longer response time and a greater point value.

This year's Grand Master, senior Joe Meek, calls the trivia contest "quite an endurance contest." But it's something Lawrence students hope to improve.

"We hope to make it a bigger event in coming years," Meek said. "It's kind of like a renaissance for trivia, looking forward and looking back at the same time."

TODD WILKINSON HAS taken trivia high tech this year. He will put contest information on his World Wide Web home page: