Like a lot of Homer history, the origins of the St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt are shrouded in mystery. This isn't an organized fundraiser where a bookkeeper holds meticulous accounts and an organizing committee records everything.
Actually, said current organizer Cindy Burns, manager of Alice's Champagne Palace, the materials are stuffed in a box and passed on from year to year.
What's not mysterious, though, is the whooping good time teams have running around the lower Kenai Peninsula scouting out items on their lists. And because part of the hunt involves visiting the eight sponsoring bars, alcohol is believed to be involved except for the designated driver.
That's rule number 13: get popped for drunk driving, and your team is immediately disqualified and you're subject to scorn, booing and hissing from other teams.
Held the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day, this year's scavenger hunt is, well, Sunday. The fun starts with a complimentary breakfast at the Otter Room and ends at 4:30 p.m. with judging, an auction, a raffle and a corned beef dinner at Alice's Champagne Palace, this year's sponsoring bar.
The public is welcome to attend the close of the hunt.
Teams hunt for money and glory, but they don't keep the money, instead giving prize winnings to the charity or nonprofit of their choice.
Last year, the winning nonprofit, Kachemak Bay Family Planning, won $1,600. Burns said earnings have been higher in other years, and she and a new generation of organizers are hoping to make the hunt more lucrative and bring some energy back to the hunt equal to its origins.
According to the legend, 29 years ago a woman named Kace managed three bars in Homer. Plans were afoot for the usual St. Pat's Day events, but Kace decided to upstage it.
"Why would we just sit around swilling beef and munching corned beer and cabbage when a little effort could result in fun times and possible prize money?" the official history reads.
In the first year, teams bought a scavenger list from the bartender at Jack's Other Place, now Kharacter's Bar, and then went on the hunt, winding up at the Waterfront Bar, now AJ's OldTown Steakhouse. Back in the day, it was a big deal, Burns said.
"The town used to close down for this pretty much," she said. "Everybody got involved in the scavenger hunt."
Teams didn't just hunt for items, either.
"They used to put people's names on the scavenger hunt," Burns said. "People knew they were being tracked down."
The tradition continues, with some modifications to the rules.
For instance, if a team doesn't find an item, the judges can be bribed. Items can be stolen from other teams but no mugging. There are some twists, too, like an 8-piece puzzle that's part of the contest. Teams have to visit each of the eight participating bars to get a piece of the puzzle.
"It's more of a social thing," Burns said. "It does get very competitive."
The Alibi Bar team has held the winning title the past three years, donating its earnings to Kachemak Bay Family Planning. Alibi co-captain Megan Palma, one of the bar owners, is on the family planning clinic board. Her team's strategy?
"It's all about knowing people who have crazy stuff," Palma said. "We never take a zero. You have to at least get one point for every item, which means sometimes you have to create the item yourself if you can't find it."
Oh, and one more thing.
"A lot of it is luck," Palma said, "But a lot of it is, we're determined."
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com.
St. Pat's Day Scavenger Hunt
Starts 11 a.m. Sunday
Fee: $25 per team and donation of a canned food item for each team member
Participating bars: AJ's OldTown Steakhouse, The Alibi, Alice's Champagne Palace, Kharacter's, the Down East Saloon, Salty Dawg, American Legion Post 16 and the Otter Room
11 a.m. Otter Room: Complimentary breakfast, registration and pick up rules and scavenger list
12:30 p.m.: The hunt begins
4 p.m.: Teams check-in at Alice's Champagne Palace
4:30 p.m.: Judging begins; open to the public, 50/50 raffle, auction and corned-beef dinner by donation; winners announced
Participants must be at least age 21 (designated driver can be younger)
Teams declare nonprofit organization supported at registration
Teams must be at least three members and no more than six
No hunt item can be purchased
No computer created items will be accepted
Items may be begged for, borrowed or created
Items may be stolen from other teams until entered at judging tables
Please do not mug or vandalize other team members or vehicles
All items must be at the judging table at Alice's by 4:30 p.m.
Borrowed items must be returned to rightful owners
Bonus points are distributed at sponsoring bars; $100 bonus to the team with the most points
One team member must remain at assigned table at all times
Items are arranged in order on the list
Each team must have a designated driver. A drunk driving arrest results in immediate disqualification
Each team must donate one nonperishable food item per member and an auction item (no live animals)