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What happened to geocaching events?



What happened to geocaching events?
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

I geocached totally solo for a long time before I attended my first event. The reason was I was introduced to the game at a time when caches were few and far apart.  USMorrows and I worked in the same Chemical Plant, he in the Lab and me in a process unit.  I thought the game would be something my Bride and I could do together, but alas she couldn’t comprehend the idea of looking for something in the woods.

I found a few caches in 2003 & 2004 and then stopped caching.  I was aware of the game, but we pursued other common interests.  In 2009 we experienced a family tragedy and I began to hike miles and miles to try and keep my sanity.  I was on a 16 mile hike in Brazos Bend SP in August and staggering as I made it to my vehicle.  I then had an epiphany.

I could be geocaching instead of just hiking!  I logged into gc.com and sure enough, I was still BaytownBert.  Boy, the game sure had exploded in that 5 years!  I bought an entry level Magellan GPSr unit that you had to hand load each cache into and started caching again. My brother TJBustem and I occasionally teamed up.  We made some funny videos and posted them on youtube too, but I continued on for a couple of years by myself.

I wasn’t part of “the network”, which we all know is essential for success, not to mention the fellowship that goes with sharing ideas and food with other cachers.  I learned about the Houston Geocaching Society and joined the forum.  I asked a lot of questions and listened.  I was invited to go to the 10 year anniversary event of geocaching.com hosted in Baytown, Texas by the guy who has become by mentor; HoustonControl.

HC knows the rules inside and out and which ones can be bent socially acceptably and those that can’t.  I say that because I have a propensity towards rule breaking, albeit self-justified.  He sets me straight and we have enjoyed many hundreds of hours caching together.  Now, what in heckfire does this history have to do with events?  I’ll explain.

For the last 6 years I’ve attended a lot of events and hosted a goodly number also.  What I am seeing is a golden opportunity being lost or spent and I mean spent as in losing it when it comes to events.  Events for the most part mean you are going into a crowded restaurant full of noisy muggles, sit next to 2 or 3 people you can actually hear and probably know well enough to live with them, and spend at least 20 bucks.  That’s an event these days.

As the SETX Rep for the Texas Geocaching Association, I am sounding the alarm and I do every chance I get.  The restaurant scenario should be the exception, surely not the rule.  Here is the formula for a successful event and it works here in Baytown.

Go to your city’s Public Relations and Tourism director and tell them all about geocaching and what it can do to bring people who spend money to your city.  Ask for swag.  Every city has stamped swag to give away.  Get a bag full as often as they will give it to you.  Try to convert them to become geocachers.  Keep in touch with them and give them reports.  Find out if the city will provide you with a place to hold an event in case of rain and you want it free of charge.  The paradigm that geocachers are a liability is no longer there.  We are environmentally aware and we pick-up trash.  We also spend a lot of money.

Take a good hard look at the history and resources your city has and stage an event close by, either to tour afterward, or to tackle that 5/5 cache everyone is afraid to go after.  Make these things optional after the event, so no one is excluded.  The idea is for everyone to enjoy the event including those on walkers and wheelchairs. I like to hide an unactivated geocoin and then hold up the coords at the end of the event.

In the Baytown area we regularly will have an event in a parking lot and then, if folks want to tackle an 11 mile hike, they are most welcome to come along.  Food?  Bring your own food and I promise it won’t cost you 20 bucks either.  I love to stage potluck events!  Mine Gott!  There is so much food it’s embarrassing and everyone knows how much we love to eat.  After our Block Party event in Baytown this year, we left so much food in the Nature Center pantry that they fed students for a couple of days.

A no-brainer quarterly event is Adopt a site CITO.  Just don’t bite off more than you can do by yourself when the shine wears off.  The way to prevent this is coordinate at least one clean-up with the city and all geocachers will get a t-shirt too.  I always bring lots of free city swag to hand-out and consistently have a good turn-out for the stretch we’ve adopted to clean.

“If you build it, they will come”… to your event.  As a challenge, try to do one event per quarter.  Make it an event to remember.  If it is successful, do the same event next year.  Have fun and talk to everyone, not just those seated beside you at the restaurant events.

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