By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Rick Welch, owner of Rick’s Cafe Americain, has started a new promotion that has participants hunting for hidden treasure.
Using a combination of clues for an old-fashioned scavenger hunt or coordinates for a popular activity called geocaching, Welch said he has hidden everything from concert tickets to gift certificates for free steak dinners.
“Several years ago I read an article about geocaching,” Welch said. “It explained what it was and interviewed people that did it as a hobby. It seemed fun and different.”
According to Geocaching, an official GPS cache hunting website, the term is defined as a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game where players try to locate hidden containers — geocaches — using GPS-enabled devices.
Welch said the idea to use the games to his and his customer’s advantage came from being cooped up too long.
“I spend a lot of time in my office, and last week I was getting some serious cabin fever,” he said. “I decided to get out and take my dogs for a ride around town and campus, and for some reason I thought as long as I was driving around I would hide some tickets for the show that I had at Rick’s that night and send out some clues and see how it went.”
Welch said he started by giving clues and riddles for the first few sets of tickets he gave away, but then remembered the article he read on geocaching and decided to include it.
“I started listing coordinates for some of the prizes as well,” Welch said. “To me, the scavenger hunt part is more fun because I actually have to think of clever clues and the hunters have to think a little too, but geocaching is easier because the coordinates usually take you right to the prize.”
Welch said sometimes the clues he comes up with dictate the location he uses to hide a prize, and sometimes they just come to him while he’s sitting in his office.
“Sometimes I just drive around until I see a cool spot that can be tied in with clues,” he said.
Welch said he’s hidden prizes in a tree near the amphitheater on the Mississippi State University campus and given the clue, “Perched in a tree without a care, sometimes music fills the air.” Another was hidden at the old Starkville Electric building on Main Street, and he gave the clue “This building used to light up the town.” He even hid something at the former Starkville Daily News offices using the clue “This building used to be newsworthy.”
So far, Welch said, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with friends sending messages from out of town guessing locations and asking if they’re correct based on the clues.
“I’ve gotten a lot of messages from friends saying it was a good idea and I should keep doing it,” Welch said. “Everyone has seemed to enjoy it, and my dogs and I have certainly enjoyed getting out of the office a little.”
Welch said as long as the response remains positive and people are enjoying it, he’ll continue to give away prizes through the scavenger hunts and geocaching.
“So far I’ve given out some concert tickets and free meals,” Welch said. “I’m sure I’ll keep doing that as well as other prizes like T-shirts.”
Mitch Watkins was one of the first winners in the promotion and got involved by following Rick’s Cafe on Twitter.
“The band Ingram Hill was coming to play at Rick’s, and I saw where Rick had posted a clue to find tickets on Twitter,” Watkins said. “I took a GIF class where we did something like geocaching, so I knew how it worked. I typed the coordinates in online and got the numbers and it sent me directly to where the tickets were.”
Watkins said he found the two Ingram Hill tickets and got to go to the concert later that night for free and looks forward to participating again.
“It’s fun going around and trying to find things, and it gives me a reason to get up off the couch,” Watkins said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
Anyone who would like to get in on the game and start receiving notifications and clues to future giveaways need only get on their computer.
“They can send a friend request to me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rickwelch ) and follow us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/ricksstarkville ),” he said.
Welch said if you’d like to start today, however, here are your clues and coordinates for a prize he says will help you out on the next Maroon Friday:
“In the spirit of tonight’s battle with white and blue, look below state where Starkville welcomes you.”
33 28.816 -88 47.755
33 29.698 -88 51.665
33 24.202 -88 51.309