Thursday, May 21, 2009

The End Of The Billy Bowlegs Treasure Hunt

Every year, for as long as I can remember, the city of Fort Walton Beach has hosted the Billy Bowlegs Treasure Hunt as part of the 2 week long Billy Bowlegs Festival.

The treasure hunt is based on clues about the history of the City and sends treasure hunters all over the area, searching for historical buildings and parks. The treasure to find is a coin, hidden on public property somewhere in the city limits.

You have to know the history of our area to understand the clues, which appeals to the historian in me. I have bookshelves full of books about local history and every year I pour over them, searching for places and events that will help decipher the clues.

The treasure hunt lasts 7 days with the clues getting a little easier and more exact each day. The person who finds the coin wins a prize package from local merchants and the opportunity to ride on the Pirate float in the Bowlegs parade.

We look for the treasure every year because I WANT to find that coin. Each year when the first clue comes out I get excited and am convinced that this will be the year I find it. And we spend hours searching for it.

It's not about the prizes or getting to ride on the Bowlegs pirate ship in the parade (although that would be a LOT of fun) - it's about "finding" it.

Tuesday was the first day of the hunt and as soon as I woke up I went online to get the first clue.

I got to the website and there, instead of the first clue, are the new rules.

The clues now send you to a different merchant each day and once you've arrived you will be given a game piece. At the end of the week you will have collected 8 pieces and are to tape or glue them to the treasure map. Once you've successfully cut and pasted your "clues" you take your map to the Chamber of Commerce, where your name will be entered into a drawing. The name drawn wins the prize.

WHAT?!!!!!!

That's not a treasure hunt! That's a drawing. And all you have to do to be entered in the drawing is be able to glue 8 puzzle pieces on a map?

You've got to be kidding me.

To say that I'm disappointed is putting it mildly. This is something our whole family looks forward to every year and something that we really enjoy.

I understand that the Chamber is working for the better of our local businesses but
this has been an annual event for the past 40 years and shouldn't be turned into a forced shopping spree.

It started as a treasure hunt - let it stay a treasure hunt.

The Bowlegs treasure hunt offered a history lesson, a tour of the City parks and an opportunity for people to get outside and spend some time walking around the City.

This is a pirate festival for Pete's sake! You've gotta have a treasure hunt during a pirate festival.

And frankly, driving to 8 different businesses, cutting out 8 pieces of a puzzle, gluing them to a map and then throwing my name in a hat for a drawing is not a treasure hunt.

I guess I'll be scratching 'Find Bowlegs Coin' off my bucket list.

I hate it when that happens.
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