Contact: Rick Peterson, Manager of News Services, 920/832-6590 For Immediate Release January 21, 2000 Lawrence University Trivia Contest Shines Spotlight on the Obscure, Insignificant APPLETON, WIS. -- Regis Philbin won't be there and no one will walk away with so much as a buck, much less a million of them, no matter how many questions they answer. But when it comes to games where ordinary people are supposed to know significant amounts of insignificant things, television's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" is merely the featured flavor of the month. Lawrence University's Midwest Trivia Contest is the true, time-tested champion Starting Friday, Jan. 28 at 10 p.m. and running until midnight Sunday, Jan. 30 -- that's right, 50 straight hours -- Lawrence hosts its 35th annual tribute to the obscure and inconsequential. The country's oldest ongoing salute to matters of minutia, the contest features questions that are as charmingly off-beat as they are difficult. On-campus and off-campus teams, with names ranging from wonderfully creative to those that tickle the boundaries of good taste, vie for meaningless prizes by phoning in answers to questions with varying point values. The entire contest is broadcast on WLFM, 91.1 FM, Lawrence's student-run campus radio station. John Brogan is typical of the hundreds of trivia fans from far and near who ritually set aside the last weekend of January for the contest. He'll be one of five team members making a pilgrimage from Iowa next weekend to his parents' empty home in Kaukauna, which will serve as team headquarters for the weekend. Joining him are friends from his Appleton East High School days who will return to their hometown from Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis and Madison. "My parents always take a vacation at the end of January and they're kind enough to let us use their house while they're gone," said Brogan, whose team played under the name Laughing All the Way to the Bank of Kaukauna last year. While Brogan and his friends first dabbled in the trivia contest as sophomores in high school in the early 1990s -- answering one question the whole contest -- they dove in head first three years as a full team and won the off-campus title in their debut. They successfully defended their title in 1998, but settled for second place last year, edged out for the title by Triviagra. "We're out for blood this year," warned Brogan, a computer consultant at the University of Iowa. "We definitely want our title back." To that end, Brogan said eight phone lines have been installed in his parents' house, four for calling in answers and four for computer hook-ups to search the Web. "In order to be competitive, you have to take it to the next level," he said. What magnetism does the Lawrence Midwest Trivia Contest possess that it draws people from as far as Seattle and San Francisco to Appleton for a weekend in the dead of winter. For Brogan and his teammates, it's simply the thrill of the hunt. "What unites us is we're incredibly competitive. Now that I'm out in the work force, this is my one outlet a year to be pig-headedly competitive. What better way to spend a weekend than hanging out with good friends and playing a game. It's really just a lot of fun." Since its inception in 1966, fun has always been what the trivia contest is about. What started as an alternative for students who didn't participate in the Lawrence's annual academic retreat to discuss esoteric issues of the day, the contest has evolved into a mecca for otherwise normal and sane folks who take temporary leave of reality to spend a weekend in a short-lived fit of obsession with the obscure. Matt Pickett, a senior from Oregon, Wis., and one of this year's "trivia masters" asking the questions, said a few rule changes related to team names will make for a faster-paced contest this year, allowing more questions to be asked. The contest typically goes through some 350 questions, which are collected by the trivia masters during the course of the previous year. The final hour of the contest is devoted to extra difficult 100 point "garruda" questions. By tradition, the contest's last question -- the virtually unanswerable Super Garruda -- becomes the first question asked the following year. The answer to the Super Garruda is widely circulated, however, assuring most teams an easy 100 points right from the start. Through the years, the lengths some teams have gone to answer questions has become legendary, all in the hopes of winning the top prizes of things as valuable as a package of chicken Ramen noodles or a squirrel pelt. Registration and a primer on the contest rules begins at 7 p.m. Jan. 28. At 10 p.m., the contest opens with this question: In a room of the Escuela de Musica Popular de Avellaneda in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rodolfo Mederos, bandoneon player and composer, holds a weekly rehearsal for the tango orchestra he directs. On the wall there is a piece of paper with the lyrics to a song. What is the song title and who composed the song? If "El Poeta" by Atahualpa Yupanqui is your final answer, you win 100 points.
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