On the Hunt… for Answers
article by Michael DeVault
photography by Martin G Meyers
ecked out in costumes ranging from cat burglar to teenie boppers, dozens of people mill about, waiting on their car assignments and the instructions to go. For the next three hours or so, a stretch limousine will whisk each team from location to location, in search of the clues and, ultimately, bragging rights.
It’s all the creation of Ruston native Al James’s fertile mind and the product of his company, Dallas-based entertainment organizer, Code Red Caper. James likens his capers to an engaging, comedic version of CBS smash hit, The Amazing Race, which James says is one of his favorite shows. For James, creating Code Red Caper was the result of years on the fundraising circuit.
“We’ve all gone to the functions with the boring speakers, or we’ve walked in the fundraiser walks, which are both great and certainly have a place, but not everyone’s doing a limousine scavenger hunt,” James said. BayouLife caught up with him late one Sunday in March. James was in his home town, where he was in the midst of the Peachy Keen Caper, an all-day event hosted by Squire Creek Country Club and featuring some of Ruston’s signature businesses.
Proceeds from the event went to benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Louisiana, a mentoring society that pairs adult “bigs” with children in need of a mentor. From all accounts, the event was a resounding success. Drivers chauffeured ten teams to six different locations. At each stop, the teams had to locate clues and then decode them.
For an added challenge, the teams weren’t given the locations. Instead, they had to decode the locations themselves from a list of clues. Suddenly, Fairfield Inn became Equal Meadow Lodge, which is far more difficult to decipher than one might think. Just ask the BayouLife team, who first explored famous football field houses of Ruston. That’s all part of the game, according to James. There’s just as much mystery as there is hunting.
“Calling it a scavenger hunt is a little misleading, because we all have a pre-conceived notion of what a scavenger hunt is,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to put into words what it is. You almost have to experience it to get it.”
The events are geared toward two audiences. First, there’s the fundraiser audience, for events like the one held in Ruston to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. In these events, teams pay a registration fee for the event. Also, at each stop, they can purchase additional clues, with all of the proceeds benefitting the organization. But James also organizes capers for a different market all together.
“They make excellent team-building exercises,” he says. Companies contract with Code Red to construct capers for their employees. Unlike the capers arranged for nonprofits, in these capers, there are no bought clues. The capers are, instead, wholly focused on corporate team building. And, James points out, they’re quite fun.
“We see all the time activities like build a bicycle or other things like that,” says James. “This is just something that’s fun. The clues cover a range of varieties, so there’s something for everybody. It is about having fun.”
James limits the fundraising capers to a single non-profit in each market. That way, the events help the group develop their brand and their unique stamp. For corporations, though, the sky’s the limit. Depending on the needs of the company, James crafts each event from scratch.
“Often teams start at their place of business, or if they’re having an off-site meeting somewhere, they start there,” he says. But by the end of the day, chances are they’ve traveled far and wide and had a chance to really get to know one another, to learn to work—and succeed—as a group. That’s the valuable lesson.
“The capers really help build teamwork,” he says.
For more information, or to schedule a caper for your company, visit www.coderedcaper.com, where you can also get a behind-the-scenes look at the capers, view photos from previous capers and get a better feel for the overall experience.