They came from near and far. Miami Shores and Brickell. Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville. South Carolina and Las Vegas, even. For all we know there was interplanetary travel involved, maybe even Elon Musk’s orbiting Tesla if it could find a parking space.
That’s how excited people were for the Herald Hunt’s triumphant return to its hometown of Miami.
On a sunny, breezy, not-hellishly-humid, perfect-weather Sunday, thousands gathered at Museum Park in downtown Miami for the beloved hunt, last held here in 2012. Originally known as Tropic Hunt and created by the Herald’s Dave Barry and Tom Shroder, the day-long puzzle was held on and off from the 1980s and discontinued in 2012 for budget reasons.
But now it’s back, thanks to a partnership with the Miami Downtown Development Authority. And like locals, visitors were welcome (“Please do not hurt them,” Barry cautioned). The hunters returned with smiles, memories and a slew of different reasons for participating.
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Lisa and Shawn Fanshier had so much fun at the last Hunt (their first), they couldn’t resist. “We love puzzles,” Lisa said. “We don’t care about winning.”
That was not true for everyone. The Raining Champs, who won in 2012, were angling for a repeat, calling themselves “confident but not arrogant.”
Jose Estevez of Miami and his group were doing it for Jose’s brother Emilio, who loved the Hunt but passed away before it came back to Miami.
“I hope he gives us answers,” Estevez joked.
The hunt kicked off at noon; park officials estimated the crowd between 5,000 and 7,000 intrepid souls, though Barry and Shroder said they believed it to be more like 137,000*. (*This number is almost certainly made up.)
Barry credited the fine weather to the ritual sacrifice of 15 chickens from New York and a goat from Jersey.* “We did it in accordance to the Old Testament,” he said. “Turns out that works.” (*Note: no actual chickens or other barnyard creatures were harmed during the hunt, although a lively group of vegetables, played by New World School students, got a little chilly up on stage, especially the donut).
The clues also included Sujal Patel, an expert yogi from Skylight Yoga, doing yoga on and off for three hours, bless his heart; a banner on the Frost Science Museum; drawings displayed down by the water and a group of former and current American presidents.
Hunt participants found some clues easy, others less so. A man who would only identify himself as “Dr. Ron,” had doubts he and his group would ever figure out the clue involving the Frost. “The Herald Hunt happens for one reason, and that is because Dave Barry is a sadist,” he said. “And I’m a professional, a licensed psychologist, so I know this.”
Barry responded swiftly to the allegation.
“I’m guilty,” he said. “ I only do this to hurt people. If I couldn’t hurt people, I wouldn’t do it.”
By 1:30, groups were huddled in the shade poring over their answers. At 3 p.m., Shroder gave the final clue. There was more consulting, then the fleet of mind and foot raced toward the AmericanAirlines Arena.
By 3:30, there were winners: Team T Rex (first place); The Narwhals (second place); and The Great Escape Room (third). The first place winners got four two-day staycations for two at the Costa d’Este Beach Resort and Spa, plus four $100 iTunes gift cards and four $100 Whole Foods gift cards. There were prize packages for second- and third-place teams.
The winning team, however, had 11 participants.
“We’ll draw straws,” said team leader Neil Schmertmann of Gainesville.
Josie Faris, 23, another member of Team T Rex, grew up going to the hunt; Sunday’s was her fourth. Faris was part of a Hunt trend: Many groups were made up of families who raised their kids on this unique Miami tradition.
And if there’s a Herald Hunt next year? “We’ll be here,” Faris vows.
Herald Hunt winners
Team T Rex: Jake Hartigan, Elena Hartigan, Michael Hartigan, Randi Faris, Josie Faris, Joy Colley, Max Maurente, Elizabeth Byrd, Elisabeth Cai-Pippin, Andy Weitzen,Neil Schmertmann
The Narwhals: Patrick Hunt, Jennifer Mennuti, Ilene Schnall, Janice Bergmann, Brad Vogelbach, Bernardo Lopez
The Great Escape Room: Scott Sakowitz, Amy Sakowitz, Howard Sakowitz, Mindy Sakowitz, Raul Davila, Mindy Rodney, Ed Schefen, Marjorie Marks, Halana Rodney, Nelson Rodney