It was a frenzied NOTL-focused scavenger hunt on four wheels.
Unsuspecting Niagara-on-the-Lake residents, visitors and business operators encountered a non-military invasion Saturday morning as nearly 100 road rally participants scurried around town trying to accumulate points while solving a series of clues — and raising about $20,000 for Red Roof Retreat.
The first of what organizer Jon Taylor promises will be an annual affair attracted about two dozen teams of four who were given a series of 25 clues to solve.
In modern twist, they had to text photographic proof of their answers to rally volunteers, who then complied all the data and determined the winners.
But it all had to be done in two hours, or less. Without speeding or violating any rules of the road.
Prior to takeoff, Taylor, a member of Red Roof’s board, also emphasized, “This is all fun, not serious, so enjoy yourselves.”
The real winner was Red Roof.
“We are truly grateful for Jon’s concept for this fundraiser,” said Steffanie Bjorgan, founder and executive director of Red Roof.
“It definitely puts the fun in FUNdraising and is such a unique way to bring people from the community together for a great cause.”
The rally participants took fun to heart, whether it meant dancing with a stranger on Queen Street, searching for a genuine Canadian one-dollar bill or a fire hall that serves food in St. Davids or performing on a stage in Old Town near the Prince of Wales hotel.
There also was the blindfolded lipstick application session to earn a whopping 10 points. It left a few participants with lipstick everywhere except their collar, but 10 points richer.
Some of the challenges proved, uh, challenging – especially getting a photo of two team members with a police officer (and two bonus points if you were IN their police car). After all, how often is a police car spotted in Niagara-on-the-Lake?
Apparently only one team solved that clue – it helps that one of the team members has a neighbour who is a cop.
We also got some quizzical looks amid the Saturday breakfast blitz at the Stagecoach restaurant when, to solve a clue, we tried to place a rush order for a sandwich. We settled for two pieces of bread, untoasted. Mission accomplished
And we’re not sure how the gas stations in town felt about everyone topping up with exactly $1 in gas, no more, no less.
Did you know there are a lot of Porsches in town? One clue demanded a team member get a photo sitting in the front seat of one. Bonus points if you found a Ferrari. (No one did.)
The top team of clue-solvers on the day was comprised of Jason Day, Lyle Hall, Ben Taylor and Paul Weiss.
They weren’t perfect but close and finished a mere two points ahead of runners-up Maria and Brodie Townley, Stephen Warboys and his daughter Chantal Warboys-Brown.
Third was the team of Greg and Karen Berti and Gina and Andy Vanderhoeven.
Tickets for a raffle for court-side seats to a Toronto Raptors home game attracted a lot of attention from participants. The Lake Report’s Megan Vanderlee, a big Raptors fan, was the lucky winner.
Taylor said he was surprised that the teams were able to solve so many clues within the two-hour limit.
And he’s already looking ahead.
“We are delighted with our inaugural event thanks to our sponsors, participants and volunteers,” he told The Lake Report.
“Next year will be even bigger and better. We already have folks trying to sign up for next year.”
Prior to the rally and again afterward, Bjorgan thanked the crowd for stepping up to help the charitable organization.
Red Roof provides recreational and respite services to children and young adults with special needs.
She noted the organization relies on the generosity of donors to help it provide programs at its two locations in NOTL: The Ranch, an 11-acre site on Concession 6, and Kevan’s House on Concession 2.