haos marks the beginning. 

Sighs of relief signify the end. 

The middle can be a frenzy of madness.

But when a project comes together, satisfaction sets in and makes the hair pulling, caffeine chugging, long nights and moodiness worth the work.

The Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce set out to create a unique event for not only Maquoketa residents but anyone who wanted to participate.

But what should that event be, exactly?

What to do, what to do?

Then the novel idea of a scavenger race popped up. It is something akin to the reality TV show “The Amazing Race” in which duos travel around the world solving a clue to their next destination, where they must successfully complete a challenge before receiving their next clue. 

The team that successfully completes each leg of the trip in the shortest amount of time wins the entire race. 

Why not lead adventurous souls on a scavenger race across a portion of Maquoketa?

But turning concept into reality can be far more difficult than devising the dream, especially if you’re in a small town and with a much slimmer budget than major TV networks.

But Chamber Director Wendy McCartt, with help from a few board members and a group of well-organized, creative, and determined volunteer women, are making it happen this weekend.

Called the Great Maquoketa Scavenger Race, teams of families, friends, acquaintances, etc., of all ages will take to the streets on foot within a half-mile of the downtown Chamber office. They must solve clues to find specific locations in Maquoketa. Once there, team members must complete small challenges and have their passport stamped before heading off to the next destination.

When I joined the GMSR Committee one meeting after it began, I seriously thought no way was the race going to take place. There was too much to do and far too little time to accomplish it. The committee of barely a dozen people had work and families and pets and lives to occupy their time, and this was going to be a massive undertaking.

McCartt and company had no board game to draw from, no script to copy, no directions on which to base this scavenger hunt. The sky was the limit in terms of location, clues, sponsors, prizes, and more.

But they devised their own game and rules, and it has been a wonderful learning experience of what you can accomplish when everyone pitches in and plays to her strengths.

Some people are outgoing, natural salespeople with lots of community connections. They volunteered their efforts to find business sponsors and locations for the scavenger race. (To those sponsors, we say a huge thank you!) 

Others put their creative talents to use, creating logos, passports, T-shirt graphics, and more.

Others have a keen eye for goods, knowing where they can buy basic supplies — and fun stuff, too — and keep the receipt well under budget.

Still other volunteers on the GMSR Committee enjoy words, so they wrote cryptic clues that will lead racers from one location to the next. The clues incorporate information about the designated locations as well as bits of Maquoketa or business history. Heck, there’s education, too!

There were T-shirt orders to manage, teams to register, packets to prepare, swag bags to fill, phone calls to make, questions to answer, supplies to find, and rewrites to complete — all within about three months. 

We met on alternating Wednesdays, giving up precious lunch hours to create a family-friendly adventure that would get families outside, into Maquoketa businesses and public spaces, working together, laughing together, and learning more about the community in which they live.

Realization suddenly hit this past Wednesday when I walked into the Chamber’s conference room and saw neon-green T-shirts lined up on one side of the glass-covered tabletop. Various goodies were laid on the other side, ready to stuff the swag bags that at least 69 participants (that’s how many people had registered as of Tuesday) would receive at the end of the race.

What was my realization, you ask?

The Great Maquoketa Scavenger Race was going to happen. The committee members had completed their tasks and had ignited a spark in at least 69 people (more than some of us had even expected) who believed in the mission, were excited, and paid their entry fee. 

Hosting the race was a risk.

Signing up for the race was a risk.

But it’s a risk everyone was willing to take to have some fun and bring the community a little closer together.

And reinforce the power of teamwork.

Not (necessarily) too late

Depending on when you read this, you may still be able to join this novel scavenger race around Maquoketa.

Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and ends at 9:30 a.m. Teams wearing their neon-green race T-shirts receive their final instructions at 9:45 a.m., then take off with all their cryptic clues in hand at 10 a.m.

If you read this column after 9:30 a.m. Saturday, well, make a mental note (I, personally, suggest handwriting it on your calendar or typing it into the calendar on your smartphone) to sign up for the Great Maquoketa Scavenger Race in 2020.