Hundreds of people gathered at Ridge Ferry Park Saturday morning for the 10th year of the one of largest geocaching events in the nation.
Geocaching is an outdoor hobby that allows people to use their GPS to find containers, or caches, hidden at specific locations marked by coordinates. While there are individual caches hidden all over the world, Going Caching is one of the organized gatherings that bring the hobbyists together for shared activities.
“Going Caching is a social event,” organizer Jim Williamson said. “We encourage people to work together and meet new people.”
As people poured in to the area near the amphitheater to await the start of Saturday’s cache hunt, their name tags paid testament to the widespread appeal. At the bottom was a line that provided the person’s hometown. Pensacola, Florida; Wilmington, Delaware; and Tacoma, Washington were just a handful of the places people came from.
“This is my fourth time here,” said Judy Kurkham, who’s from West Monroe, Louisiana. “It’s a very unique event and we have a lot of activities to fill up our days here. It’s a lot of fun and Rome is a great place to come visit. There’s nothing similar to this anywhere in Louisiana.”
When the go ahead was given to start the hunt, everyone immediately grabbed their cellphones and looked around for the first clue. It didn’t take long for them to notice a small sign next to one of the vendors with a list of coordinates telling them where to go next.
From there, teams hopped into their cars and rolled in convoys to different sets of coordinates scattered around the area. Some found themselves heading to the Rome Civic Center parking lot, racing to the train car to find out where to go next. Others went off into the woods, looking for clues.
“It’s almost like a scavenger hunt,” Williamson said. “It’s a big thing in geocaching to be the first to find (the box). There’s a ‘first to find’ certificate and we also do a $250 prize. There’s an envelope in the box and you bring it back to our tent. We’ll have you come up on stage and everybody will cheer.”
The thrill of the hunt ran deep. For many, it wasn’t about finding the cache box first or winning the prizes. The beauty of the event is that people from all walks of life have an outlet to come together and enjoy their hobby as a family.
The five-day event started Wednesday with a reception, followed by group activities including a pub crawl, stage shows, a fun run and flash mob. Saturday was the main event, which wrapped up with a 1920s evening soiree at The Vogue in downtown Rome.
The geocachers met one last time, on Sunday morning in Ridge Ferry Park, to share coffee and doughnuts and fond farewells.