What does it take to win the Herald Hunt? A sharp mind. A keen eye (two are better). The ability not to wilt under sweltering heat and humidity because this may be November but apparently nobody has told Miami.
Also crucial: Somebody who can run really fast.
The winning solution came quickly at the 2019 Herald Hunt, which returned to Miami last year after a tragic five-year absence. It was held in Bayfront Park Sunday and was noteworthy for many reasons, not the least of which is there were actual bathrooms this year. (Note: The bathrooms got as big of a cheer as the Miami Dolphins’ halftime score. Do what you will with that information.)
Also, due to a brief rain shower around 2 p.m., actual Miami locals were spotted taking refuge in the Bayside food court, which usually holds more pigeons than people who live here.
Originally called the Tropic Hunt and whipped into life by Dave Barry and Tom Shroder, the daylong puzzle was held on and off from the 1980s and discontinued in 2012 for budget reasons. Its new partnership with the Miami Downtown Development Authority has helped bring back the clues and the boos (don’t worry — they’re a tradition).
Most participants are longtime Hunt fanatics, many of whom seem to be raising a new generation of Hunters.
That legacy feeling prompted Barry to call this year’s puzzle a “mellow” hunt.
“Everyone’s here,” he said. “They’re all saying ‘We did the original hunt back in 1873.’ “
So what brings a couple thousand people out on a hot, humid, cloudy Sunday when they could be lounging in an air-conditioned room consuming an adult beverage? What causes them to want to spend a day poring over puzzles that include a floating sign, a marching band playing “Smoke on the Water” and a game of musical chairs set to the “Game of Thrones” theme?
For Manny and Jennifer Chambless of Kendall, it’s a tradition. They tried their first Hunt in 1989 when they were 17 and had just started dating. They didn’t win the Hunt but apparently there were no hard feelings.
“Now we’re 47, and we’re still doing this,” Jennifer Chambless said.
For Frank Estadt from Arizona, part of a team that won in 2008, the Herald Hunt is about hanging out with old school friends from Sunset High.
“It’s an awesome excuse to see my buddies,” he said.
Estadt’s team, which came in second, included a friend who flew all the way from Olympia, Washington, because who doesn’t want to fly across the country to try and understand the mind of Dave Barry? But members of the team agreed the key to their victory was Coral Reef High student Brennan Woolley-Larrea, who not only figured out two of the major clues but also ran like the wind when Shroder gave the final clue at 3 p.m.
Three generations of the Weisblum family from Miami won first place. Bob and Roslyn Weisblum have been doing the Hunt for 35 years and started bringing their son Scott when he was 10. Now, Scott, his wife, Jacquie, and two sons Jake, 9, and Dylan, 7, are part of the team.
“We couldn’t have done it without our amazing family,” Roslyn Weisblum said, adding that the team practiced the night before by doing an escape room game. These are definitely the people you want near you should a zombie apocalypse break out.
When asked how this Herald Hunt stacked up against its predecessors, Barry was quick to share credit. Wait, we mean take credit.
“The part I did was brilliant,” he said.
The grand prize was 100,000 miles on American Airlines to be shared by the winning team plus four massages at MassageLuxe Downtown Miami. Second prize was eight tickets to an Evening With event at Miami Book Fair plus four weekend family packs and four tickets to Art Basel; third prize was tickets to CroquetaPalooza, eight meals at Burger Beast Burger Joint and a $200 gift card to the Meat Market.
Winners of the 2019 Herald Hunt
First place: “35 Years of Trying,” made up of Robert, Roslyn, Scott, Jacquie, Jake and Dylan Weisblum
Second place: Greg Nguyen, Frank Estadt, Tony Ginatta, Stephanie Woolley-Larrea and Brennan Woolley-Larrea
Third place: Shayna, Gary, Pam and David Held