In a dimly lit office a packet of information was handed over. Eminence Speaker’s marketing director Chris Rose gave strict orders. “Do not under any circumstances let anyone know you have this list,” he said.
The little bit of paranoia was justified. There were 44 people waiting in the next room who would have loved to get their hot little mitts on that list. They were contestants, hungry to begin Eminence Speaker’s Amazing Race game, and the list contained the name of every destination they would race to find. First they had to decipher clues and the clues had to be earned.
The idea for the race came from the company’s Morale Committee. Race coordinator Sherry Watts said Eminence Speaker created the committee earlier this year to build team spirit and create camaraderie.
“The company is so in touch with providing a good stable work environment,” Rose said. “The committee concentrates on making it a fun, exciting place to work.”
There has been a morale winner in every quarter of 2008 awarding prizes to one lucky upbeat, positive employee. “We’ve given away a computer, a guitar and backstage passes to concerts,” he said. The race winners received $50 each.
There were 11 teams of four completing a roundtrip journey of seven miles. Using clues, strategy and their knowledge of Eminence, the object was to check in at 14 landmarks and be the first to make it back to home base in the company parking lot with all tasks completed.
Watts said the company enlisted help from community leaders. “We didn’t want them to see 44 people running through town acting like fools,” Watts said. “They’re going to do some really foolish things, nothing dangerous or illegal, but definitely foolish.”
Teams scrambled to assemble 65-piece jigsaw puzzles to receive their first clue which was: Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico. The first team to solve the puzzle and decipher the route information clue was “3 Kings Queen High” - made up of Josh Martin, Neva Wilson, Lee Jeffries and Gary Moore. They were taken by “taxi,” vehicles driven by volunteers, to Southern States where they encountered a “detour.”
The detour involved either eating a snack of jello or carrying tobacco floats. Rose said that, of course, there is always a catch. “It’s a mixture of the most god awful jello,” he said, “or carrying 250 Styrofoam palettes with fans blowing them.” Some teams tried both before resigning themselves to one or the other. The jello was foul-smelling lime concoction chunked with velveeta cheese, spaghetti noodles and relish. “People are gagging and switching tasks,” a volunteer said.
Once participants cleared that hurdle, they sprinted to Norm’s Food World where teams faced their first roadblock. One member of each team was given a grocery list and had to locate and purchase the specific items on the list. It appeared the women were better suited to the task than the men. One male team member stood immobile in the center aisle with a glazed look in his eyes cradling a few grocery items. Volunteer Charlotte Barnett said the teams were having fun and getting their first tasks done quickly. “It’s only taking five minutes or so to get their groceries,” she said. “It’s been a hoot putting this together.” The groceries were dropped off at Eminence Schools, the teams’ next destination, to be donated to the Eminence Food Closet.
By 10 a.m. teams were making their way to the old train depot and Family Dollar Store where another detour, “cuff or buff,” awaited the combatants. Those who chose cuff spent five humiliating minutes in the frisk position, hands on an Eminence police vehicle. “I was getting comfortable ‘til I found out there’s another three minutes to go,” said a member of team “Clueless,” comprised of David Risky, Paul Woodcox, Beth Woodcox and John Justice. “We should’ve been flexing.”
Had they chosen buff, they would have been flexing their muscles on Broadway until a total of ten vehicles passed. The “Eenie, Meenie, Miny, Mo” all female team of Sharon Daugherty, Martha Wilson, Laurie Raisor and Wilma Louden rolled up their sleeves and showed off their biceps turning the heads of passersby who honked and waved.
Rose, monitoring the cuff or buff detour, said the game was moving along quickly. “It’s going a little faster than I expected,” he said. “I think, I know they’re in the wrong place. I know they’re going to have to backtrack.”
Rose’s observations were correct. Some teams had missed check-in points and lost valuable time. “They got out of whack,” Watts said, “and left tickets at Norm’s and other stations.”
One team debuted their secret weapon at the ninth stop. A quartet of bicycles raced up to the Farmers Deposit Bank. The “Charlie’s Angels” team, Glenn Simpson, Kandice Powell, Miranda Runion and Angie Crowe retrieved the bikes they stashed at a team member’s house. The “Fantastic Four,” Vickie Truman, Jason Stanley, Michelle Gambrel and Todd Raisor, followed their lead returning with four rather mismatched bicycles. Watts said there were some participants who even threatened to bring their horses. “We told them no motorized vehicles,” she said, “so they got creative.”
Other stops along the route were Browning’s, the old Speaker building, Designing Cuts, the Old Deposit Bank, State Farm Insurance, Big Henry, the hanging shoes by Browning’s and the library.
The answer to the clue leading to the library proved to be particularly troublesome. It referenced the Dewey Decimal System and left many teams scratching their heads. “It’s stumping everyone,” Watts said. “We told them these little snafus might happen.”
The final road block was at the site of the Eminence swimming pool. A member of the team was required to chip a golf ball into the pool area. Kandice Powell, representing Charlie’s Angels, hit the ball that won the competition. “I’ve never played golf before,” she said, “but I hit the ball over the pool.”
After pedaling madly back to home base, the winners collected their checks and celebrated.
Recounting the experience, Simpson said they were the second team to leave Eminence Speaker in the beginning. After the first detour, three teams were ahead of them. Crowe then brought the team into first place outpacing all others at Norm’s Food World. “I messed up on a little pie,” she said. “I was looking for a big pie.” Simpson got the team through the roadblock at Farmers Deposit Bank, locating a specified name on a memorial brick in front of the bank. “I just scanned them until I found it,” he said. “We couldn’t have done it without Glen,” Powell said. Then she sealed the win with a golf club. “That was a good golf shot,” Simpson said.
The team consensus was positive. “I would definitely do it again,” he said. “It was fun.”
The rest of the teams were the Steamrollers with Larry Payton, JR Ellis, Brandon Chesher and Todd Raisor; Jeff’s Posse with Jeff McGaughey, Kaye Tindle, Jill Stamper and Tracy Noe; A Thorn Between the Roses with Monica Mathis, Lisa Harrod, Terry Bramblette and Glenda Payton; Beverly’s Hillbillies with Beverly Payton, Michael Bayne, Justin Bayne and Jeff Wright; The Go-Getters with Kenny Berner, Jenni Berner, Tammy Shields and Jacob Beam; and, Jackie’s Boys with Danny Meadows, Jackie Louden, Gary Morrison and Tony Banta.
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