LIVINGSTON, NJ — Leigh and Jason Gourvitz of Livingston were looking for something fun to do other than another “standard couples dinner weekend outing amongst friends,” when they came up with an idea to plan an evening scavenger hunt. They immediately contacted their friends, Ilisa and Kevin Harrison of West Orange, and brought them in to run the game and create the clues.
Both couples were fans of the 80's cult hit film, “Midnight Madness,” and thought this might be a fun activity to plan for a bunch of friends.
They were right—and now, seven years later, they are still planning Midnight Madness Events for groups throughout New Jersey and will soon be expanding into New York, Connecticut and even Maryland.
The four business partners run scavenger hunts that according to Kevin Harrison, “require players to use their cunning wit and problem solving skills to decipher clues leading them to various locations throughout the county of origin, and eventually to the finish line, in order to determine the winners and to dole out first, second and in certain cases third place prizes.”
“We provide clients with a thrilling break from their standard Saturday evening out,” said Jason Gourvitz. “People always tell us how much fun they had and that they can’t wait to play again.”
The couples recently held a Midnight Madness Event for 80 people, comprising 12 teams, with clues spanning from Livingston, West Orange and East Hanover to Maplewood and Millburn, where Team Green, which consisted of Livingston residents Elliott and Alice Stein; Howard and Rachel Flusser; and Jeff and Lori Hershey, were the winners.
Prizes came from a pot comprising the amount each player paid to pay the game. First prize was 65 percent of the pot and second prize was 35 percent of the pot.
Players were broken into teams and assigned designated colors to wear to show team spirit, with some donning matching t-shirts, capes, hats, or team costumes.
The teams arrived at the starting line adorned in their respective team colors and were given the basic ground rules and an envelope with the initial clues.
Once they solved the first set of clues, which took them to a specific location, they then called into their "game masters," which consisted of a Gourvitz or Harrison family member, and were provided with additional clues. There were 16 clues all together.
If a team got stuck, a team member called into a game master for help and took a 10-minute penalty. The penalties came into play at the very end, where teams had to complete a puzzle as they arrived at the finish line. Teams with penalties had to wait 10 minutes to start their puzzle.
Clues and answers from previous games include the following: CLUE No. 1: Jonas or Cocker—ANSWER: Rockin' Joe's; and CLUE No. 2: The Commissioners of the 4 Major Sports Would Be The—ANSWER: Sports Authority.
Once all of the clues were solved and everyone had raced “carefully, observing all traffic laws” throughout the designated route, team members then had to solve one final clue that lead them to the finish line.
“This is generally a restaurant/bar where all the teams eventually rendezvous at collectively to eat, drink, socialize and watch the winners gloat and losers commiserate over a cocktail or two, while they share stories of the fun night out they all just had,” said Jason Gourvitz, of the finish line location.
Local resident Amy Rudnick, who was on the black team, played for the first time and said, “I felt like a teenager running through the mall. Such a fun night and we can't wait to do it again.”
“It was the best time we've had running around in sneakers on a Saturday night in a long time,” said Alice Stein.
“It was an awesome night of friendly competition with friends old and new, getting to know our area retail establishments a little better,” said Elliott Stein. “The organizers do an amazing job to make the competition both challenging and really fun. Good reminder that scavenger hunts aren't just for kids. We highly recommend midnight madness for all.”
Jason Gourvitz agreed and said, “These scavenger hunt events are not just for adults, they also make great birthday party, bar/bat mitzvah and sweet 16 activities.”
The next Midnight Madness event is scheduled for Oct. 22, in Monmouth County and there are currently three more events planned for the spring. Those interested in participating in any of these events or in planning their own event should call 917-415-2852 and check out the Midnight Madness Events Facebook page.