Cities help residents go on the hunt for entertainment during quarantine

BY KATE COIL
TML Communications Specialist

With schools, parks, and playgrounds closed, cities across Tennessee are finding engaging ways to keep families both mentally and physically active.
Encouraging residents to hunt for local landmarks, teddy bears, and Easter eggs from the safety of their vehicles or neighborhoods are just some of the ways municipalities are encouraging residents to engage with each other and the community.
The town of Farragut is hosting a drive-by scavenger hunt featuring 12 local landmarks. Karen Tindal, tourism coordinator with the town of Farragut, came up with the idea for the scavenger hunt with Carisa Ownby, media assistant for the town, after seeking ideas from other communities who were trying to engage their residents. The idea was created as part of a Tourism Industry COVID-19 Resource Group, which is intended to help tourism agencies during the outbreak find new and interesting ways of connecting their communities.
Tindal and Ownby chose locations for the scavenger hunt that are both recognizable and important to Farragut. They also ensured that each location is accessible by car so residents could safely visit them.
“One of the most unique locations was WFiv; this is Farragut’s independent radio station,” she said. “The radio station is on the edge of town and the station is not visible from the road so many people that may listen to 105.3 may not realize that it is located next to one of our busiest parks, Mayor Bob Leonard Park. The Farragut Press was also chosen because for many it’s just a pretty house on Kingston Pike.”
As a result of the outbreak, the tourism industry has had to find unique ways to continue serving their communities.
“While generally, Visit Farragut, focuses on increasing visitors to our town, during this crisis, we have had to pivot, as well as most in the industry, to continue to serve our community’s needs,” Tindal said. “We all agree that we are ‘safer at home’ now, so with all of us taking a collective pause we felt it was important to highlight those things that define our community.”
The scavenger hunt is also a bit of a test drive for future tourism projects.
“We also wanted to test the waters with this scavenger hunt and if it is well received. We are considering doing a second one and are looking at ways to incorporate our local businesses and restaurants into the next scavenger hunt or a bingo type game,” Tindal said.
Another popular activity cropping up across the state are bear hunts. Businesses, residents, and even local government officials placed a teddy bear in a window, allowing those walking or passing by to try and spy as many hidden bears as they can. The activity is one way that parents are keeping younger children active and entertained as popular outdoor destinations like playgrounds are closed.
Amy Rose, public relations manager with the town of Greeneville, said she was eager for the town to participate when she heard a local “bear hunt” would be conducted in Greeneville. A bear with a large silk flower dubbed “Sunflower” now peers out from one of the windows of Greeneville Town Hall.
Rose said the bear hunt is a way to help bring a little happiness in the lives of local residents, young and old.
“This pandemic is causing all sorts of emotions, and we just wanted to share some love and joy with our citizens,” she said. “Whether its parents getting stir-crazy kids out of the house for a little while, or a healthcare worker on their way to or from work, we hope everyone who sees Sunflower will forget their troubles, even if it’s just for a moment. Greeneville is known as a friendly town, and bears are popping up throughout the community. In unprecedented times like these, it’s important for us to stay connected.”
Bear hunting has also become a fun activity for residents in Germantown, according to Jessica Comas, Germantown marketing and communications manager. The city decided to participate in the local bear hunt after an employee brought the subject up in one of the city’s daily operations management meetings.
“Our parks and recreation director said her neighborhood in Germantown had been fairly active with bear hunts,” Comas said. “She took a picture of a teddy bear positioned outside of her home while wearing a Germantown T-shirt. The marketing and communications team decided to use that photo to inform our social media followers of the bear hunts and encourage everyone to take part.”
Comas said the bear hunts bring a bit of levity to a situation that has disrupted everyday lives.
“People are being asked daily to refrain from doing a lot of things right now and that change can be difficult,” she said. “It’s refreshing for people to read about simple activities that they can continue to do. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear that is circulating, while it is important to keep everyone abreast of the national situation and actions that are being taken on a local level, it is also equally as important to generate some positivity and highlight the good that is happening as well.”
Maryville Community Relations Manager Jane Groff said the city decided to participate in a local bear hunt after seeing Facebook posts from mothers in the community who were using the hunt as a way to entertain their children. The city brought out the bears that usually decorate city hall during the Christmas holidays.
“We want to remind people to find joy wherever possible,” Groff said. “If you turn on the news, you are likely going to see all of the scary things happening around the world. We just want to embrace our community and remind them that we will continue to be here for them, providing the services they depend on and that we will get through this together.”
A lot of cities had to cancel their annual Easter egg hunts along with other events. However, some communities found ways to still hold an Easter egg hunt that meets with health guidelines.
Beth Rhoton, Winchester city administrator, said the city’s “virtual Easter egg hunt” was created as a way to entertain local residents. The city began partnering with members of the community and local businesses who felt the virtual hunt was a way to bring cheer to kids who couldn’t hunt eggs the traditional way.
Residents and business owners were encouraged to make eggs and place them in their windows or front yard using items already on hand. Once completed, they sent a picture to the city’s Facebook page to qualify to win prizes donated by local businesses and the city.
“We drive them to our Facebook page in order to qualify for the prizes,” Rhoton said. “Our Facebook page is the number one way we disseminate information such as daily updates for our citizens and businesses. Many people in our community, not just Winchester, come to our page to learn what is going on.”
While initially designed for kids, Rhoton said residents of all ages were invited to participate as a way to safely get out of the house.
“Our residents are trying to abide by the rules and stay in as much as possible and we know that brings on boredom,” she said. “We have noticed when the sun shines the citizens like to ride around to get out of the house. That boredom was leading them to go places they really didn’t need to go. We also know everyone was disappointed that all the Easter egg hunts had been cancelled. Our thought was we can entertain them and give them something to look for while still remaining safe and practicing social distancing and staying in their cars.”