Staff writer Kay Neufeld competed in the first “Amazing Summer Fest Race” at Farmington’s annual Summer Fest Saturday, July 23. Much to her surprise, the scavenger hunt organized by Farmington Underground offered challenging clues that sent competitors on a mad dash across downtown. Pictured, Neufeld poses in front of the headstone for Ebenezer Sweet, which competitors were tasked with finding at Center Burying Ground Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Margaruette Seguin

FARMINGTON — The Amazing Race came to Farmington Saturday, July 23. Or rather, Farmington Underground planned an elaborate, “Amazing Race” themed scavenger hunt that took participants here, there and everywhere across downtown.

I’ve loved to go on a good town adventure during my storied history as a reporter with this paper.

I’ve competed in (and won) the Chester Greenwood Day Gingerbread House Building Competition, explored the 180th Farmington Fair, acted in a haunted house and learned how to be a woodworker (sort of).

With this being the scavenger hunt’s first time at Farmington’s Summer Fest, I figured it would be the best time to test it out for you, Dear Reader.

Joe Musumeci and Mary Ellms of Farmington Underground planned an elaborate scavenger hunt with clues that took participants to area businesses and historical sites across downtown Farmington.

In an interview, Joe said he was inspired by “Amazing Race,” an “adventure reality game show” on CBS that takes competitors around the world deducing clues, learning about foreign cultures and performing challenges to win $1 million.


The Amazing Summer Fest Race was a bit more pared down than its inspiration. Competitors were sent across Farmington with prizes for “best time,” “best costume” and “best team spirit.”

Joe said he built the Farmington scavenger hunt with local businesses in mind.

“It’s great to get the businesses involved and get people in their store that maybe never would have gotten there before,” he said. “They have a few minutes to create a brief relationship.”

After signing up ahead of time, my teammate Margaruette Seguin and I trudged over to Broadway, where Summer Fest was being held, in 90 degree Fahrenheit weather.

I’ve usually felt quite competitive (with the phrase ‘in it to win it’ repeatedly uttered) during the other town competitions and activities. But in the oppressive heat under the baking sun, I knew it’d be a losing battle.

This time, I was really just here to have fun; and fun we had.


Margaruette and I arrived in plain clothing, which instantly knocked us out of the running for “best costume.”

Joe and Mary signed us in, handed us our first clue and sent us off at 12:30 p.m. on the dot. Joe told us the hunt would take around an hour to complete and every team had until 2 p.m. to get it done.

We were first sent to the Center Burying Ground Cemetery. We were tasked with finding the name Ebenezer Sweet on a headstone.

When Seguin and I first arrived at the cemetery, we thought it would be a piece of cake. I’d been to the cemetery a handful of times for other stories, and I should be able to find Mr. Sweet, I thought.

We overall came in to the scavenger hunt confident that we’d knock it out of the park.

Ten minutes into our search and Margaruette wondered whether it was entirely respectful running around atop other people’s graves looking for the clue answer to a game.


I’d like to think the deceased enjoyed the energy of all the visitors in a cemetery that is typically empty.

About 15 minutes into our search, we found dear Ebenezer’s name hidden behind an American flag.

Onward we went, less sure that the scavenger hunt would be as easy as pie.

Joe said he’d designed puzzles before. He wanted these clues to be a healthy mix of lightly ambiguous, challenging and straightforward, he said.

We returned to Amazing Race headquarters where Joe and Mary handed us our next clue: to head into Reny’s and find three specific items in the store.

Again I went in overconfident, thinking surely I’d know where to find the different sections of my local Reny’s.


Overconfident was certainly the theme for the day, though it waned by the time our 2 p.m. deadline neared.

After running through Reny’s three floors, we (Margaruette) found all three items and headed to the cash register to receive our next clue. The hardest part of this clue, though, was the instruction “You must wait in line.”

Next up was a taste-testing challenge at Determined Nutrition. We had to guess the flavors of a mystery drink. If we got more than one guess wrong, we had to run our cup to a dumpster and come back to guess again. Green apple was the final flavor that we discovered after a trot to throw out the trash.

The heat, which became more oppressive throughout the day, began to pose a real challenge.

In 3D games, we ran around to the different displays trying to unscramble the letters of a word. Neither Margaruette nor I knew much about video games and this challenge ended up being the most time consuming. Still, the air conditioning was a welcomed reprieve as it became more and more evident we were not winning this scavenger hunt.

And then, the other shoe dropped: the sole of my shoe entirely split off.


I hobbled back to my house, just down the block, and took a water break. After we headed back on the trail, our clues flew out of Margaruette’s pocket and we scrambled to collect them. We probably lost 15 minutes during the detour.

The rest of the scavenger hunt unfolded quickly. Doing some math at the Titcomb House and Farmington Public Library, searching through the elaborate, picturesque maze of used-bookstore Twice Sold Tales and finding another name at Meetinghouse Park.

Margaruette Seguin poses in front of a monument at Meetinghouse Park in downtown Farmington Saturday, July 23. Finding a name on the monument and taking the photo was a task in Farmington Underground’s elaborately planned scavenger hunt, an activity at Farmington’s annual Summer Fest. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Margaruette’s crowning moment of the day happened at the Better Living Center, where we needed to collect three items that weighed exactly 1.5 lbs. As a gardening educator and farmhand, it took only one try and the task was complete.

BLC owner Wayne Drake said he was impressed. It took the other teams quite some time to get a correct weight, he said.

My crowning moment was at Sandy River Relics, where we needed to correctly order four glass bottles by age. Following my story about Walgreens overcharging on its bottle recycling fee, I knew off of the top of my head that any bottle with a recycling-fee label was made after 1975.

Still, we had to cluck like chickens outside the store after getting our first lineup wrong.


I was in the end impressed and delightfully surprised by Farmington Underground’s series of clues. I expected them to be a bit easy and geared toward kids. The competition was open to all ages, but I imagine it was equally challenging for kids and adults alike.

I was also impressed by how enthusiastically involved the businesses were. All of the employees and owners overseeing their part in the hunt were excited to watch us get the task done. Some even kindly gave us the answer to receive our next clue, sympathetic to the repercussions of repeatedly getting it wrong.

We came in at a cool one hour and 25 minutes, running for the first time of the day to Amazing Race HQ to clock in at 1:55 p.m.

We were certainly not the big winners. Rather, we came in 17th out of 20 other teams. The fastest team finished at 43 minutes – which I thought was an astounding time in such intense heat.

It was a humbling moment for Margaruette and me, who both lean toward the competitive side.

We didn’t even come close to best time, nor best costume. But I’d like to think we were up there in best team spirit.


Winning aside, it was the perfect way to take Margaruette, who was visiting for the first time, on a holistic tour of the Farmington downtown.

Joe and Mary hit the nail on the head with the final clue, which stated “there is a lot of history in park [Meetinghouse] park.”

The overall scavenger hunt ended up being a great reminder that there is a lot of history in this town as a whole.

And it was a great way to learn a bit more about Farmington’s rich background and the local businesses that make this town’s heart beat.

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