SoCal Gays Hopped Around the City During the 9th Annual WeHo Scavenger Hunt
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Silly rabbit, Easter egg hunts are for kids of all ages. March 31, the Saturday before Easter, saw the 9th Annual WeHo Scavenger Hunt come to the homocentric hamlet within greater Los Angeles.
This adult spin on the traditional Easter egg hunt was presented by WeHo Dodgeball, WeHo Adult Recreation and Rainbow Rex, and featured 26 teams of four, many in themed costumes. After registering at GYM Sports Bar (and paying the $40-per-team fee, which goes to cash prizes for the winners), participants received a list of clues that led them on an odyssey across West Hollywood and Los Angeles.
To Jeb Whitlock, one of the event’s organizers, WeHo serves as an ideal venue for a scavenger hunt. “There’s a strong sense of individuality and expression in West Hollywood,” he says. “Its businesses, art installations and historically important locations all lend themselves very well to a traditional treasure map-style adventure.”
While West Hollywood’s strip of Santa Monica Boulevard is most strongly associated with its raucous nightlife scene, the WeHo Scavenger Hunt gives the city’s queer residents and regulars an opportunity to socialize outside of the customary gay bar context.
“A lot of LGBT people, both young and old, have not always been blessed with having people of similar lifestyles to commune with and hang out with,” says Whitlock. “And while gay villages like West Hollywood are obviously very important because they make it easier for LGBT people to congregate with each other, I think it’s as important to emphasize there are places, activities and venues for them to do so that aren’t bars and dance clubs. While there’s nothing wrong with either of those things, the more potential common ground people have to meet and socialize over, the more the community as a whole will thrive.”
The WeHo Scavenger Hunt has been creating common ground for the greater Los Angeles queer community for nearly a decade, and has evolved dynamically over the years.
“The first couple of hunts were not scheduled around Easter. If I recall correctly, they were originally in June and December,” Whitlock says. “It took a while for us to settle on doing them around Easter, as we felt that they were a natural twist on the traditional Easter egg hunt. It’s something we’re always tweaking year to year. While the general formula tends to stay the same, we like to play with the format a little in order to keep it fresh for both ourselves and the players. This year we’ve streamlined the categories a bit in order to make our judging process a little bit more efficient. We’ve also played with early objectives and clues delivered over social media in advance of the hunt in order to keep people excited about it going in.”
Among the objectives of this year’s hunt, posted on the event’s Facebook page in advance, were deducing local spots from mind-bending riddles and taking team photos on-site, securing photos of a team with non-players acting out wacky activities, collecting hard-to-find items and picture puzzles leading to an “Easter Egg Grab Bag.”
To the Meeseeks, this year’s winning foursome (comprised of Jonathan Aldana, Aaron Lempert, Eric Nevins and Jason Rasmussin), the best part of this year’s WeHo Scavenger Hunt was making a Pickle Rick — a reference to the Adult Swim series Rick and Morty — out of an actual pickle.
“We loved the Pickle Rick challenge. His eyes were Claritin tablets!” laughs Nevins during a post-hunt interview. “We used lunch meat we bought at Target.”
And producing a Pickle Rick wasn’t the only objective associated with Rick and Morty. The hunt also required participants to procure an unopened packet of McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce, a condiment closely associated with the cult cartoon.
“I had a packet that I was storing for a rainy day,” Nevins confesses.
While the event is most definitely a WeHo Scavenger Hunt, many of its objectives lead participants beyond the boundaries of Boystown, to locations like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In many ways the sprawling nature of the hunt mirrors the diaspora of L.A.’s queer culture, which did not originate in West Hollywood but over the decades has become focused there. The city’s “gay scene” has since spread out profusely, from Downtown to the city’s western edges. Ultimately, though, the WeHo Scavenger Hunt reflects the perspective of organizers like Whitlock, a “Lost Boy” who loves living and playing in his native Neverland.
“Speaking personally, the hunt’s also sort of my love letter to Los Angeles,” he says, “a city that I’ve grown up in and hold dearly.”