The Amazing Milwaukee Race gives Milwaukee fun a reality TV twist
Most people's birthday celebrations consist of a night out with friends, presents and drinks at a bar or two.
For Adam Baus, it's an excuse to get over 50 people to race all over Milwaukee in a five-hour quest for scavenger hunt glory.
Originally called the Great Milwaukee Race (the name's been changed this year to avoid being confused with a similarly titled event), the Amazing Milwaukee Race began last year as a way for Baus to theme his birthday celebration around his favorite television show.
"My friend called me and said, 'Hey, "The Amazing Race" is starting up tonight, do you want to come over and watch it?' and since then I've been pretty much hooked," said Baus. "More and more I thought, 'You know, that'd be kind of fun to do for my 30th birthday party.' I really like the design and thought it would be fun to do a localized version of it here."
What resulted was a five-hour scavenger hunt around the city's East Side and Bay View neighborhoods, complete with clues, puzzles and challenges scattered throughout multiple area businesses.
Back for its second year, The Amazing Milwaukee Race promises to top its inaugural success with all-new stops and even more fun feats.
"It's a brand new course and completely different activities from the first time around," said Baus. "Hopefully if all the spots get filled in, there'll be a few more people, a few more activities and a few more different buses to take."
This year's race kicks of Saturday, June 11 at noon in Potawatomi Bingo Casino's Tribal Room. After leaving the starting line, each two-person team has until 5 p.m. to decipher their clues, get to each stop and complete their tasks.
"I'm very excited to see how this is going to run," said Baus. "The way that our clues are put together, you don't know what you're going to have to do next until you complete your task. So racers come to the start line and they have no idea what they're going to have to do or where they're going to go until they get their first clue."
Though the teams are all in the dark, Baus and his "dream team" of volunteers stations at the various sites have orchestrated the race to a tee.
"I never want to design this in such a way that if that lead team gets out in front, there's no chance of anybody else ever catching up to them," he explained. "As much randomness as possible is fantastic so that you really don't know who's going to win until they cross that finish line. You don't even know from the second-to-last site -- it's still anybody's game. Last year we tried to keep track of the teams as they went along the day and when you looked at all the sheets, the team that came in first place at the end never came in first place at any point along the way."
Baus, who designs the race structure himself, took a lot of inspiration from "The Amazing Race" TV series in constructing his local version. To keep the odds as balanced as possible, the course comes complete with a variety of clue obstacles: Roadblocks (tasks that only one team member is allowed to complete), Detours (a choice of two or more tasks), Intersections (tasks that must be completed with another team) and Bunching (locations or situations meant to slow leading teams down).
Building these types of clues into the race adds fun and variety to how teams advance through the route, said Baus, but it also levels the playing field for all teams to have equal advantage.
"It's really designed for anyone and everyone," he said. "You don't have to be a pro about Milwaukee. If you're really serious about winning, I think you've got a shot if you just do it and go for it."
Baus hopes to expand his skill and passion for designing these types of events into a side business in which he would design custom routes for business team building, but the original Amazing Milwaukee Race will be around for years to come.
"I think it's great to have an event like this that showcases and shows off different parts of the city," he said. "Milwaukee's a pretty rich playing field to work with, and even if we were to run out of major landmarks, I think I'm pretty creative and I can come up with variations on already-used themes that would give interesting twists to some of these things."
In the meantime, the city is Baus' playground. And with the final touches falling into place on this year's race, the designer has finally run into an obstacle of his own: keeping things under wraps.
"That's the hard part, because I really revel in some of the ways I can figure out how this is going to work, and then I can't share," he said. "People are like, 'How are you doing?' and I'm just exploding inside with just how well something might work and I can't say a word."
My wife and I came in 2nd last year... it was an absolute BLAST. I highly recommend this to everyone. It's a great time and a really good way to get to know Milwaukee.
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