By Craig Farrell, Executive Director, West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce
(November 6, 2008) West Bend, WI—As Craig Farrell started to get acquainted with West Bend, he began hearing that this southeast Wisconsin community was a hotbed for geocaching activity. In 2005, prior to moving to West Bend, Farrell had copyrighted a new concept for a geocaching event and began exploring ways to bring this idea to life. As the new Executive Director of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce, he was intrigued about the possibility that West Bend could be the right place to try his idea of using this exciting new activity to help residents and visitors experience the historic, scenic and recreational assets of this picturesque city, less than an hour from Milwaukee into a tourism asset for the community.
“I liked all the elements I could see in the local geocaching community—active fun, the huge diversity of geocachers and the general enthusiasm there seemed to be for geocaching in this area,” says Farrell.
This growing enthusiasm included an amazing 400 caches within a 7-mile radius of town and a growing number of geocachers living in the area and coming to the area specifically for geocaching. It is also home to one of the top geocaching teams in the world—EcoRangers, a top-five ranked geocaching team by geocaching.com. A few geocachers had even taken to calling West Bend the “Geocaching Capital of the Midwest.” It seemed to Farrell that there was a very real momentum behind geocaching in West Bend.
“I sought out area geocachers to learn firsthand why this was happening specifically here in West Bend ,” says Farrell. “I quickly learned that it was the combination of parks, trails, historic sites, public nature areas, friendly residents and unique rolling landscape that make the area ideal for geocaching.”
Farrell then asked local geocachers to help him turn his idea into a reality. Within weeks of the initial meeting, the “West Bend $1,000 Cache Ba$h” was born.
The “West Bend $1,000 Cache Ba$h” is a joint effort between the Chamber and local geocaching organizations. The Cache Ba$h was designed to appeal to both local geocaching teams as well as teams from around the Midwest and U.S.
Meeting for nearly a year, the geocachers and Chamber staff created an event that sparked incredible enthusiasm throughout the geocaching world. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism awarded the Cache Ba$h a marketing grant, and businesses and organizations throughout the area supported the event through volunteers and financial support. Local media covered the event in features articles and news updates.
All this support paid off in a hugely successful event. The West Bend Cache Ba$h attracted more than 400 geocachers from 170 teams, including teams from Florida, California, Indiana and Virginia. In addition to many top-ranked teams, other teams consisted of first-time geocachers or novices. Fifty new permanent caches were also added as part of the event, bringing the total caches in the area to more than 450.
With an incredible amount of enthusiastic feedback from volunteers and participants alike, Farrell says that next year’s event will be even bigger.
“Working with the local geocaching community has been such a positive experience for the West Bend Area Chamber,” Farrell reports. “And we’ve gotten so many responses from event participants that said they loved the event and would be back next year. So, we’re committed to growing this event, as well as supporting geocaching in our area. Geocaching is the perfect year around tourism venue for West Bend.”
Learn more about the West Bend Cache Ba$h at www.westbendgeocaching.com