“A Mega-Event cache is an Event Cache that is attended by 500+ people. Mega-Events offer geocachers a day of planned activities. There are often several days of additional activities surrounding a Mega-Event. These large events attract geocachers from all over the world and are often held annually.” That’s how Groundspeak defines a Mega-Event. So you hear about Mega-Events and you might be wondering “What’s the big deal?” or “why should I go?” I decided after attending MOGA a few weeks ago I should probably write something up to help everyone (including myself). Let me start by saying each event has a different feel and caters to different kinds of geocachers (although all are welcome). Most Mega-Events will have their own page outside of the Geocaching.com page and will have multiple registration levels to help fund the event. This includes deadlines that you need to be aware of. There is always a free level available.
Before I get into details, please understand in most cases this is my opinion and therefore it could be wrong. Caveat Emptor. If you wish to add something constructive to the comments or even write up your own rebuttal, please feel free. If you keep it family friendly and polite, I’ll most likely publish it.
The Regional Mega Events
Midwest GeoBash (MWGB) this was at one point a roaming event but has found a home in Waseon, OH. This was the first Mega Event I attended and is more of a social event than anything else. Consider it a massive multi-day party for Geocachers. People gather at the fairgrounds (many camp onsite) and during the day they either hang out or cache around the area. Being in Northwestern Ohio it makes it easy to grab caches in three states. There are education sessions so you can learn things, there are contests (closest to the pin, etc.), and there’s is a massive travel bug exchange. Vendors come out selling things. Geocoins, and pathtags are in ample supply for trading or just ogling. ”Bash” is a great event during the day and gets a little more interesting at night. Area 51 the public campfire area is one of those things that Bash is known for. Some people like it, others don’t, personally I think it’s a a lot of fun and has expanded over the years. Area 51 is basically a bar (or bars) where donated adult beverages are poured. Parents are not encouraged to have their kids in Area 51 after a certain time. When I attended my first Bash, I knew nothing about this and thought it was one of those super secret, invite only places… I know better now. Bash is an event you can go to for just one day if you can’t take the time off. I think it is a great first Mega-Event for anyone who would like to check one out.
Midwest Geobash is a multiday event they have a different theme and bird mascot each year. Onsite camping is a big part of the social aspect of this event.
The Event Page is active and if you plan to go it’s July 25-28
GeoWoodstock this mega roams around the country (last it was in Southern Indiana, this year it is in Florida) and you never know where is might show up next, so planning ahead is only possible one year in advance when they announce the next location. It is traditionally held the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, although that has been moved to around the 4th of July (which was why I could finally attend). Woodstock for some is considered the grandaddy of mega events. Woodstock is one day with, in most cases other events before and after sometimes these can be weeks before the actual event. It is a social event, again there are the typical GPS accuracy contests and educational sessions, for the most part this event is for people to go cache in the area and meet people. Like Bash, vendors are around and there are places to trade pathtags, trackables, and coins.
The Event Page is up and if you plan to go it’s happening on May 25.
MOGA (Midwest Open Geocaching Adventure – I asked a bunch of folks in attendance what MOGA stood for, no one gave me the same answer- so “thank you” Google). MOGA is a slightly different animal from the other two mega events. It is a roaming event in the midwest (2013 was in Shelbyville, Illinois and 2014 will be in nearby Athens, Ohio). While Woodstock and Bash are focused on the social aspects of geocaching including education events for newbies- the day of MOGA seems to be focused on the competitive nature of caching. Individual and team competitions are the major focus for the day even though of the over 1200 attendees only a little over 200 actually competed. As with any mega event the area has an overwhelming number of published caches and and numerous caches that participants were given the coordinates to prior to them being published. So where many mega events are focused on getting everyone together MOGA seemed to be about giving people caches to find and giving them the time to find them. The main area which at most Mega events is brimming with people mulling about through out the day, was virtually empty once the day started with people returning for the awards ceremony. The competition portion of MOGA was held on one day with other events, and I’m guessing (having only driven in for the day) the more social aspects occurring prior to and after.
Preparing to Attend a Mega-Event
First and foremost understand what kind of event you are attending, and check out the other events in the area. In some cases the event isn’t really just a day, it takes the entire weekend (or week before) plan ahead, know what you are getting yourself into.
Create a route and load the caches in the area. An event like MOGA they had hundreds of caches that went live after the event, either make sure you have a computer or make sure that you have read enough about the event to know what you need to do to get the coords for any special caches. Are there Whereigo caches, have you downloaded the cartridges for them?
Ask around about the event- find out what it’s like from those who have attended it. Are there special parts that should not be missed. Worst case, contact the event organizers and ask them.
If you know you are going- register ahead of time – or you’ll miss out on valuable opportunities for SWAG and getting up to date information about the event.
Almost but Not Quite Mega-Events Nearby
The Indiana Spring Picnic is held annually in May (I already wrote something about this event) the event bounces around and is usually help somewhere North of I-70. There is a pitch-in lunch and door prizes along with an auction. It has a number of sub other events surrounding it although the actual event is one day.
The Indiana Fall Picnic is held annually in September. The event bounces around the state but is traditionally held South of I-70. There is a pitch-in lunch and door prizes. One of the highlights of the Fall Picnic is GeoSurvivor a team competition which can be rather amusing to watch.
Moonshine is held annually the first weekend in September (aka Labor Day weekend) just outside of Indiana in scenic Moonshine, Illinois (pop. 2). It is nothing special, just an opportunity to have the best burger ever from the Moonshine Store and there is a door prize raffle. I know it isn’t in Indiana, but it is a great event, nearby, plus we’re talking about Moonburgers! mmmm… Moonburgers.
Putting on a Mega Event:
Each event (Mega or not) requires a lot of work and a team of volunteers I could go on and on about it, but instead I had the chance to talk with some members of last years GeoWoodstock Planning Committee to find out what it takes to put on a Mega-Event like a GeoWoodstock.
So how do you get to do GeoWoodstock?
- You have to bid on hosting GeoWoodstock. You often hear, “Why isn’t it closer to me?” or “I think it should be in the west.” Most people don’t have a clue there is a bidding process.
What requirements are put on the planning committee for Woodstock?
- The catered dinner is not optional for the host. It is required!
Are the dates for Woodstock set in stone or can the planning committee be flexible?
- The host(s) have the option of choosing either Memorial Day weekend or July 4th. If July 4th is in the middle of the week, they can choose either the weekend before or the weekend after. No other dates are an option.
What about financial assistance? Surely the planning committee, starts with something?
- There is no funding for GeoWoodstock. You begin with zero dollars. That may be the same for some of the other Megas. It might not apply to Bash since it’s the same people each year.
What about Groundspeak?
- Groundspeak and/or Geocaching.com do not host Mega events (except the Headquarter’s events they just started having). It seems to be a large number of people’s opinion that GeoWoodstock is a Groundspeak event. (Also) As of June, 2013 Groundspeak will not allow Garmin as a sponsor. Don’t look for any Garmin GPS’s to be given away at a Mega listed on the Groundspeak website.
So who is part of the planning committee for something like GeoWoodstock?
- GeoWoodstock is run by everyday ordinary cachers. I’m sure this is the case with most of the Megas.
About how long does the planning committee work to get everything together?
- Megas are a lot of work for the hosts. We worked on ours for about 2 years if you include the bidding process.
What about the whole “secrecy” thing? How does the whole bidding process work?
-The location of the next GeoWoodstock is a secret. You are not allowed to tell at all. Other than our spouses, our families didn’t even know. The bids are reviewed by the past hosts and they make the decision of where the next event will be held. The last few years they have decided on the next two location at the same time. This may or may not always be the case. Guess it just depends on the bids submitted.
Anything else you want to share?
- One of the things that many people don’t think about is the fact that all hosts have to follow local rules and regulations. For instance, this year dogs or other pets are not allowed. This was not their decision is a rule in all the Florida state parks. Alligators eat our furry friends for lunch!
- I always tell people that every event no matter how big or how small is the vision of the host and really can’t be compared to any other event. With that said, there really isn’t any good or bad events. Just what the host wanted it to be.
Since this was such a large article I did ask for some input from the editorial board (Amazingly, I’m not the only one on the other side of the screen, and I don’t mean just Cecil) And would like to share a few anonymous comments from the mysterious “Editorial Board”
“My take on MOGA…having followed it, but never attended, is that it started out all about the blood and guts, run through swamps and forests, get back to the finish line first, competition; but has expanded in the last few years to offer something for everyone. I suspect you are right about hitting their actual event site at the right time, before everyone clears out and does their own thing.”
“…often have that discussion about the balance of a social caching event where you are compelled to hang out for almost all of the day and don’t get much caching time because there is so much going on vs. the ones where you are more likely to go out caching and then you feel like you didn’t even attend an event. The best conclusion we’ve reached is that at Mega Events (and even the spring and fall picnics) the key is learning to build the event you want… …(At the Fall Picnic) we used to grab our registration packet and head out caching, return for lunch, watch Geo-Survivor and stay the rest of the afternoon at the event. For us, a posted schedule of events and hopefully previous experience or advice from friends help us pick and choose which of the Mega-Event activities we want to do and when we can go caching or do other things. ”
“This Mega-Event would be worth adding too as it is a very different from the other area Mega-events and is relatively close to Indiana. http://www.westbendcache.com The key components of it are $1,000 in real cash is given out and dozens of new permanent caches placed each year making West Bend the self-proclaimed “Geocaching Capital of the Midwest” with over 900 caches in a 10-mile radius. The caches placed also tend to be unique and not just film canister park-and-grabs.”
I know the hard work that goes into putting together an event of this kind, I applaud everyone who takes the time to make these things happen, The geocaching community is strong because of the wide variety of events that are available for all cachers no matter what their expertise. The effort of these volunteers shows in the number of caches placed, and the detail put into every part of the event. I suggest if you haven’t had a chance, check out the next Mega-Event near you. If not the Indiana Spring Picnic is coming up and if that isn’t a social event, I don’t know what is.