A GPS will unearth treasure at Tomato Festival

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 20, 2012 

A unique mix of hiking, technology, point scoring and treasure hunting is planned to coincide with the celebration of tomatoes next month.

Geocaching is a never-ending treasure hunt using a GPS device. It's played by more than 5 million people around the world.

Cass Kalinski, an information technology manager from San Jose, plans a one-day geocache event that will begin and end Oct. 6 at the Los Banos Tomato Festival. He said there will be 75 to 100 caches hidden in Los Banos proper and in the surrounding wilderness.

"You go out with a GPS, you find a box in the woods and you sign the log and you get a point," the 54-year-old said, summing up the basic rules of the game.

Usually the cache is a box with a item of little or no value -- a wooden coin, a rubber duck or whatever -- and the rules say if you remove it then you must replace it with an item of equal or more value. For this particular event, the items will be heavy on Los Banos and tomato trivia, Kalinski said.

"I turn these people loose, I give them the GPS coordinates, they run around within a 10-mile radius of Los Banos, (and) they find as many as they can," Kalinski said.

Kalinski said geocaching tends to attract people who enjoy hiking, and is a way to spice up a nature walk. The GPS coordinates will get you close to a cache, he said, but it takes some searching to find the exact location.

The Tomato Festival event is unique in that the hidden treasure circulates around the event. Kalinski estimated as many as 200 caches already in the Los Banos area not linked to the October event. "It's a game within the game," he said.

Regular geocachers can begin and end a hunt at their leisure.

Kalinski said many people play in small groups and share a GPS device. He expects a crowd of 50 to 75 players from in and out of town.

Registration is planned at 8:30 a.m. at the Los Banos Fairgrounds, 403 F St. There is no fee to participate in the hunt, but admittance to the Tomato Festival is $5. The event will culminate with a prize raffle based on each team's score.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.


If You Go

Organizers expect 50 to 75 players for a game of geocaching. Registration is planned at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 6 at the Merced County Spring Fairgrounds, 403 F St. There is no fee to participate in the hunt, but admittance to the Tomato Festival is $5. The event will culminate with a prize raffle based on each team's score.

For more on the geocache, go to www.geocaching.com/

seek/cache_details.aspx?wp=GC3RMVY

For more on the Tomato Festival, go to www.lb tomatofestival.com

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