Today I'd like to welcome Mary Alice Fellers, the geocacher behind the Crystal Lake 100 Years Geocoin Challenge. I did a post about the series on Monday, so go back and read about it here if you missed it. I asked Mary if she'd answer some questions about the process of putting together all the geocaches and she kindly agreed.
The Crystal Lake 100-Years Geocoin Challenge was created to celebrate Crystal Lake's centennial anniversary of incorporation (1914-2014). Whose idea was it to place the caches and extend the challenge?
I approached the City in August 2013 about the geocoin challenge. I had just completed the Crystal Lake (CL) Park District’s 90 Years of fun Geocoin challenge a month earlier. That sparked my interest to create a geocaching series that would explore CL’s history and include a geocoin with our City’s new centennial logo. City staff embraced the idea and granted me permission to use their logos.
Who designed the geo coin?
The design itself already existed in a sense since the geocoin was going to incorporate the City Seal on one side (with the exception of adding the ‘Track at…” verbiage and a raised area for the TB number) and the City’s new Centennial logo on the other side. The geocoins were manufactured by CoinAndPins.com.
250 geocoins were available for the challenge. Who paid for the geocoins?
This project, including the coins, was my gift to the City in celebrating its 100 years. In order to not dilute the limited edition nature of the 250 trackable geocoins intended for the Challenge, the manufacturer was given instructions to not produce any more than the original 250 trackables. A separate die was then manufactured that looked just like the TB geocoin but without the geocaching verbiage & tracking numbers. 100 of these non-trackable commemorative coins were also purchased for the City to distribute as they wished.
This was a huge undertaking considering that you had to scope out cache locations, make the geocaches, design the passports, place the caches and then write up all the cache descriptions. Did you work on everything yourself or did you have some help?
So true…it was an 8-month labor of love researching everything geocaching and Crystal Lake, to such things as HTML formatting. Much of what went into this came from what others had done already and were willing to share. CL City staff was accommodating & supportive in so many ways throughout the entire process. CL Historical Society granted permission to use photos and excerpts from their written materials. The CL Fire Department provided stories, photo and their cache’s host. Rebecca Hunter of Elgin graciously provided a list of local Sears kit homes that she had compiled back in 2002. McHenry Co. Historical Museum in Union even went looking for the old CLFD hose cart, found it in the corner of one of their storage barns, took a picture & sent it to me for use on the cache page. A local printer was used to create the cover for the Library cache and to print the passports. My husband, Jim, was a great help in putting together five of the cache host boxes.
The cache descriptions are extremely interesting and informative. Where did you gather all your facts and history?
Scouring reel after reel of microfilm containing old chronologically-ordered newspapers at the library; following trails of information gleaned from documents, maps, books & brochures from the local historical society and library; searching online sources; and conversing with folks who had interesting stories to share.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone who is interested in doing something similar to highlight their town and open it to the caching community?
Don’t hesitate approaching your town’s community development staff or Chamber of Commerce. If there is an upcoming milestone, festival, or other special event, it could be a great time to introduce a geocaching series. Our City staff was enthusiastic about this project from the beginning and even asked if I wanted to write an article for our local newspaper featuring the geocache series as part of their centennial celebration.
A Woodstock middle school teacher contacted me after being inspired by the CL100Years series. She organized a similar geocache challenge at her school last month to teach their 260 sixth grade students about the town’s local history and give them a fun opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom. Although these were not published caches, a lot of people were introduced to the world of geocaching and the onsite geocaching ‘field trip’ they designed can be tweaked & reused for future classes.
Are you a Crystal Lake resident and if so, how long have you lived there?
Yes - since 1993.
What was the inspiration for some of your caches?
Perusing online videos, images, & blogs got my creative juices flowing for many of the geocache containers. For example, I love WVTim’s gadget caches and knew immediately when I saw one of his Hatfield ‘n McCoy concepts that it would be a perfect tie in to “Let’s Go Fishing” (GC4XK2V). Some of the write-ups were inspired by listening to Violet & Almeda, now ages 97 & 95, over the years talk about their life experiences in CL, or being intrigued by a pickle factory. Noticing a particular statistic being reported on in the newspaper each year at about the same time led to “Telephones=Prosperity” (GC4XPM5) becoming one of the themes in the series. A 1929 newspaper ad announcing the grand opening of “El Tovar” (GC4XM0N) inspired me to explore further the lost form of bringing sound to the theater.
Did you have any problems getting permission to place the caches at their locations?
Not really – only a couple people declined. What helped greatly was having the geocache series incorporated into the City’s centennial celebration. I met with each property owner/manager to explain the geocoin challenge and the historical theme of the cache proposed for their property. I also wanted to make sure they understood the caches would remain in place indefinitely once the challenge ended and that they had my name/phone number should any questions/issues arise.
Of all the caches that you’ve created, which is your favorite and why?
Each cache in this series took me on a special journey. Maybe it was deciding a cache theme or tying together a cache page story to its container and/or location. The “1965 Tornado” (GC4XNGQ) cache was placed in the same spot as the cache page newspaper photo of the destroyed Standard Oil station, and the National Weather Service story transported the reader so well to the events of that day. The only thing missing was getting the cache container to open like storm cellar doorsJ. There’s standing at the monument creating the field puzzle for “Union Soldier, Revisited” (GC4XQQY) then looking down and discovering what appears to be a misspelling of the manufacturer’s name.....
Or there’s figuring out how to feasibly bring to life a stage curtain, ice box and Sears kit home by transferring pictures onto wood, or how to dig a little deeper into the log when the chisel no longer would work. So I don’t think I could name a favorite.
How long have you been geocaching?
2½ years…started in June 2013.
What is your caching name and why did you choose it?
Needed a name quick – Maddie was our dog & she liked to go, so there you have it…ugomaddie.
The 90 Years of Fun Geocoin Challenge put out by the Crystal Lake Park District a couple of years ago was a huge success. Had you done that series?
Yes…see answer to question #1.
What is the best cache you’ve ever done that is not one of your own?
I’ve enjoyed so many caches for various reasons that I don’t think I could name a best one. “Out of Sight” (GC232EV) was a marvelous adventure & learning experience. A sense of accomplishment was felt after meeting the goals for “The Illinois All County Challenge” (GCT663) and “The Illinois DeLorme Challenge” (GCREG1)…not likely I’ll be doing any more of those, though – been there/done that. “Great Kaskaskia Dragon” (GCHWFZ) is a cool host to see at night, and “Q’s MOGA 2013 Gadget Cache” (GC44GMY) is wonderfully clever. When I’m solo caching, I prefer those that I can get to relatively quickly. The best caches are geocoin challenges, creative gadget caches, caches that make me smile, and clever puzzle caches (when I can solve them!).
Any plans to spearhead another challenge?
No plans for another challenge at this time. I’m waiting for CL100Years Geocoin Challenge to end so that I can pull some of the caches in for maintenance hopefully over the winter…there are still about 20 geocoins remaining!
I'd like to thank Mary for her interview but more than that, I want to thank her on behalf of the whole geocaching community and the city of Crystal Lake for all her hard work. She did a wonderful job highlighting her town and bringing scores of people to Crystal Lake in a fun and intriguing way.