Trivia weekend is hard work for lots of fun
Trivia in this town is anything but trivial. Just ask the volunteers who spend months preparing for the weekend event.
“Trivia gets in your blood and becomes a part of you,” said Deb Shell, an 11-year volunteer computer operator who in part helps tabulate correct answers and generate team scores. “It’s my favorite weekend of the year … It’s about tradition, togetherness and fun.”
Shell begins her work in March, a few months after organizers Jim “The Oz” Oliva and John Eckendorf begin penning questions for the 54-hour long contest, deemed the largest in the world.
Trivia 47: “Not Your Father’s Contest” begins at 6 p.m. Friday, April 15, and runs through midnight Sunday, April 17. There are 432 questions, plus running questions, the Trivia Stone and three music questions.
Registration will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday, April 11, through Thursday, April 14, and from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, April 15, at the 90FM studios on Reserve Street, Stevens Point.
Registration is $30 per team.
The Trivia Kickoff Movie will play at midnight Friday, April 8, and again at 10 a.m. and midnight Saturday, April 10, at Roger’s Cinema on Church Street. Doors open at 11:15 p.m. for the midnight shows and at 9:45 a.m. for the morning viewing. Tickets are $3.
The annual Trivia Parade begins at 4 p.m. Friday, April 15, in University Lot Q at Maria Drive and Illinois Avenue.
Registration, available merchandise and the parade all have a piece of Shell in it, as she helps behind the scenes with making sure it all gets in order prior to the contest. She and three others works shifts as computer operators throughout the weekend, and Shell helps set the schedules, cover shifts that may be short, hand out and collect running question sheets and other odds and ends that keep the contest running smoothly.
“It’s a slow, progressive build-up to the main event,” she said. “I try to get a good night’s sleep Thursday because once I’m up Friday morning, that will be the last sleep for at least 24 hours, typically … By Monday morning, we might have logged four to six hours of sleep.”
Bob Bell, biology professor at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, recruits students for a 2 to 6 a.m. call center shift annually. He started answering phones in 1994 with the “Trivia Park” contest, recruited his father-in-law the next year for “The Six Million Dollar Contest,” then got the idea for Doctor Bob’s Budding Botanists,” the group he handles each year now for the entire four-hour shift.
There is a sense of pressure and one of relief when it’s over, in fact the entire group breaks into applause realizing they have completed “something this cool,” he said.
Memories still reach to today’s approach and feelings, he said.
“The pressure I felt running my first shift as head operator in 1996,” Bell said. “Oz and Eck sit right there opposite the head operator, and it all seems like it’s such a serious, no-room-for-error sort of environment.
“There are calls to the complaint line – are any of them about an answer interpretation I made, did one of my kids screw up? – and you see Oz and Eck lean over and grumble something while they look out at me … very scary,” he said. “Still get that feeling 20 years out, but I know those two clowns well enough now to just talk to them.”
Bell keeps coming back because he knows the contest is a huge part of this small community, and it is part of what makes Stevens Point so large.
“I want to bridge the town-gown dichotomy and help tie the school to the comunity in an inventive, engaging and memorable experience,” Bell said. “Plus, it’s really cool to be able to say I’ve played a part in helping the contest prosper, and it’s gotten me into some friendly conversations with unexpected people in unfamiliar places over the years.
“I wish more people could see and appreciate the incredible amount of work done by Oz, Eck and especially the student staff in the radio station,” he said. “It’s a ton of work.”
But it’s all worth it, the volunteers say, no matter the hours or the small parts behind the scenes that they are privy to as the public – across the country – listens, researches and attempts to answer the hundreds of questions throughout the weekend.
“My favorite part of volunteering is just being there with everyone enjoying the music, being baffled by the complexity of the questions and then sometimes actually knowing an answer without looking it up,” Shell said. “But I don’t know that there is just one part that is best.
“It’s the fun, the friends, the Trivia family, the food, so much laughter … it’s sleep deprivation and caffeine buzzes and food comas, it’s tradition and knowing that we are all there for the same reason,” she said.
“Our little town brings together all these great people, both locally and globally with those who stream online, and the businesses for this weekend to support the radio station. It’s just such a great testament of this area and what this contest means,” Shell said.