Ogden’s scavenger hunt reveals the true French Quarter

'O’ is for Ogden’s O-Mazing race, where costumes are encouraged. Angels were big in the 2012 race.
'O’ is for Ogden’s O-Mazing race, where costumes are encouraged. Angels were big in the 2012 race.

Get a clue

The French Quarter’s deep history and culture, combined with its oddities and eccentricities, is the muse of the annual Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s Kohlmeyer Circle’s O-Mazing Race — an interactive scavenger hunt that will alter even a local’s perspective of the Quarter.

Hundreds of people, in teams of four to eight, will race to complete a 40-clue scavenger hunt on Saturday, starting and finishing at the Bourbon Pub, 801 Bourbon St., New Orleans. The race begins at 3 p.m.

The O-Mazing Race has had previous participants seeking out a Ferrari in front of a Royal Street jewelry store; all team members had to climb in and have their picture taken.

“We asked them to get in a second line, pour a waffle at Clover Grill, asked them to find live animals, all of which we knew would be there in the Quarter that day; a snake, a lizard, a monkey, a gator, a rat, a rabbit, a pelican,” said Joshua Clark, board member of the Kohlmeyer Circle and founder of the O-Mazing Race.

Teams in costume work through 40 clues over a three-hour period. Half are written and half are photos. Contestants vie for one of the three awards — first, second and best costume — which gives them the chance to win a stay at the Hyatt Regency and certificates to restaurants and events around town.

Since 2004, hundreds of participants have been turning out for the event, adorned in pirate, angel, gaming and comic book character costumes — anything that would get the attention of the judges at the after-party.

Every year, the O-Mazing race gets bigger and wackier, and has fast become the Kohlmeyer Circle’s most successful fundraiser for the Ogden Museum’s educational programs.

“The Kohlmeyer Circle is basically for young art enthusiasts. We formed our own board about 10 years ago, and the idea was to draw a younger crowd, specifically under 40, into the museum,” Clark said.

“We started creating events to help with membership ... and that is how the O-Mazing race was born and has become our biggest event and fundraiser.”

Participants used to have to ride around the French Quarter and the Business District on horse-drawn carriages, but in 2011, the Kohlmeyer Circle decreed the race would be strictly on foot, making it logistically easier and allowing more participants to enter.

“We want to teach teams something that they did not know about Southern culture — art, music, literature, architecture, you name it. But it has just got to be fun,” Clark said.

As the head of the clue committee for the O-Mazing race, Clark walks the streets of the French Quarter every year with other members, brainstorming new and creative ideas that would trump the previous year’s clues.

Coming up with new clues for the race every year is not easy, especially when the majority of participants are locals.

“We would think, what would be the wildest, wonderful thing we can come up with, and the wilder the better?” Clark said. “We are always trying to outdo ourselves. We have had people get married during the scavenger hunt, we have had voodoo ceremonies, beignet-eating contest — you just never know what you are going to get.”

The after-party at the Bourbon Pub starts at 6 p.m. and is open to the public. Winners will be announced and there will be a slide show of pictures participating teams took during their scavenger hunt.

Sign up at http://store.ogdenmuseum.org/o-mazing-race-tickets/ before 5 p.m. on Friday.

“We want people to have more fun in the Quarter than they have ever had before,” Clark said.