Maddie Guest knows she isn’t the first to be hooked on the adrenaline rush of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest. She won’t be the last.

“I don't know what I expected, but there is truly nothing else quite like it,” said the Lawrence University senior from Northbrook, Illinois.

Guest has stepped into the role of trivia head master for the 59th running of the student-led trivia contest, set for Jan. 26-28. A 50-hour scavenger hunt of obscure information, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest continues a Lawrence tradition that dates to 1966. Open to teams on and off campus, it will again begin at 37 seconds past 10 p.m. Friday, the oddly specific starting time being one of numerous traditions baked into a contest that embraces its history while continuing to evolve.

The trivia masters pose for a promotional photo ahead of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest.
The 2024 trivia masters (Photo by Cesar A. Donaire '24)

Guest leads a team of 12 trivia masters (TMs) who build and run the contest, deliver it as a stream on Twitch, and operate on very little sleep.

“My message to trivia masters throughout this planning process has been to emphasize what a great tradition we are a part of,” said Guest, a theater arts and music education double major. “We are part of an almost 60-year tradition that is so unique and, honestly, so cool. Additionally, it's going to be hard, it's going to be stressful, but at the end of the day we are creating something that is meant to be entertainment, so it is really important to remember to have fun.”

The theme for this year’s contest is “Fairy Tale: Once Upon a Trivia.” The contest will again be streamed on Twitch, with calls coming in via a phone server on Discord. Some traditional phones will be in the mix as well, with a rotating cast of volunteers answering calls on the fourth floor of Briggs Hall.

Trivia weekend annually draws between 500 and 800 players spread across roughly 80 off-campus teams and another 15 or so on-campus teams. Teams will need to register at 8 p.m. on the first night of the contest. Contest details can be found here.

As is tradition, the asking of last year’s Super Garuda—the final question of the previous year’s contest—will open the trivia marathon, with this year’s Super Garuda then closing the contest 50 hours later at midnight Sunday.

In all, there will be more than 300 questions. Look for an uptick in the number of campus-specific action questions, something that Guest said players have been asking for.

A trivia community

For Guest, the role of head master is the culmination of a trivia rush that began her first year on campus.

“The adrenaline of trivia is something else entirely,” she said. “I never expected I could spend so many hours talking to people, filling out forms, choosing questions, hosting hours, solving problems, and doing that all with a smile on my face. And then, at the end of it, when you are sure you're going to go home and pass out, you end up in your room, still buzzing with energy, coming down from the high that is trivia.”

Guest was a first-year student when she joined a team that set up shop in the lobby of Plantz Hall.

“We had people covering every hour except for 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturday, and I had a blast,” she said.

A year later, she and a group of friends camped out in Warch Campus Center. And then she was invited to audition to be a trivia master her junior year.

“I discovered how incredible the trivia community is, both within the TMs and with the off-campus participants,” Guest said.

The connection between current students and alumni is what keeps the contest going.

“I think trivia's uniqueness has given it a cult-like following, and that sustained attention, appreciation, and enthusiasm has given way to a really kind and supportive community,” Guest said. “There are teams who have been playing since long before I was born, who care so much about this tradition and who have stuck with trivia throughout its evolution as an event. Since Covid and our transition to Discord and Twitch, interaction between players and TMs and between differing teams has really increased, and with it our sense of community has only grown.”

Need to know

What: 59th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest, produced by Lawrence University students

When: Opens at 10:00:37 p.m. CST Jan. 26 and ends about midnight on Jan. 28.

Registration: Opens at 8 p.m. CST Jan. 26 at https://blogs.lawrence.edu/trivia/

Streamed live on Twitchhttps://www.twitch.tv/greatmidwesttrivia.

Phone lines: 920-832-7140 (on campus); 920-832-7148 (off campus)