November 20, 2017

MOGA for Dummies

MOGA

MOGA stands for Midwest Open Geocaching Adventure. It is billed as the largest geocaching competition in the world. It is a Mega Event through Geocaching.com, but it is more than just a competition. It’s a Meet & Greet, it has vendors, it has lots of geocaches for kids, the handicapped, for the hikers, and for the park-n-grab number hounds. There are games, there are ammo cans, there are micros, and there are gadget caches. This event has something for every type geocacher. There are competitions for the individual geocacher, for the two person teams and the four person teams. There is a competition for teams who like solving puzzles as well. Some venues have competitions for the handicapped geocacher, the bike riding geocacher, and the boating geocacher. We strive to have something for everyone who wants to get out and play.

Because of our name, the event is hosted in one of the 12 Midwest states. They are Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. The time frame is early spring during March and April, and either before or after the two weeks that hold Palm Sunday and Easter.  The event weekend is usually for three days. The Friday before usually has Flash Mobs, breakfasts events, and the Friday night event where everyone is encouraged to attend to pick up your registration packets (more on that later). The Main Saturday event which has the competitions, other games, and etc… Then the Sunday after which usually has a CITO, a breakfast event, and lots of caching.

The Cache Page

The first thing you will need to do is to find and read the cache page on Geocaching.com. Groundspeak sends out a weekly newsletter which shows a listing of all of the Mega Events across the globe. The cache page is loaded with needed information. What city is the event located, the event date, how far is it from your house, the venue hotel where the event will be held, the area where the competitions will be held, the link to the MOGA website, and other hotel and camping information (this info may be on the website).  If you think you can make it, post a will attend. When you do, don’t just say “We will be there”, that’s as bad as putting just TFTC on a cache log. Tell us how many are coming and where you are coming from. Something Like “Howdy Mates, Crock-fighter and Miss Sheila here are flying in from Australia to show you blokes how geocaching is done down under. No worries about a hotel, we’ll be sleepin’ in the back of the rental, if ya know what I mean.”

The MOGA Website

The next thing you will want to do is go to the MOGA Website at (www.moga2018.com), but you will find it on the cache page. When you get to the website, this is where the fun begins. Scroll down the first screen. There is usually some good info here, like a sign up for the MOGA information. If they are giving any early discounts or having pre-registration games, this is how you will hear about them. When you are done with the first screen, look at the top of the page, you will see some title words like “registration”, “login”, “shop”, etc.. What you should do is place your cursor over the one that says MOGA 20xx and look for “FAQ”. That stands for Frequently Asked Questions. Click on that and read every question and answer to help familiarize you about the event and the process. After you have read the FAQ, look around the website for more interesting information. If you are interested in a competition, read the Competition Manual. Read all of the information about the event so when you are finished, you will know what MOGA is all about. You can also visit the events Facebook page to get more specific information.

One tradition that MOGA does is the can food drive and the raffle. We get items donated by the vendors, local businesses, geocachers, and Groundspeak. We put them on display so everyone can have a chance to buy a raffle ticket, drop it in the can – associated with that item – and have a chance to win it. The can food drive works like this. For every non-perishable can of food brought in, earns you one raffle ticket. 10 cans = 10 raffle tickets. All of the food collected is given to a local food pantry. The food you purchase from the local store helps stimulate the economy of the town and the food goes to the needy of the same area. It’s a win – win for the host city. If you can’t buy cans of food, you can purchase raffle tickets from the event store or during registration. The net proceeds collected from the raffle and the event, are donated to a local charity selected by the event Director.

Next, hover over and find the activities section. Read all items in this section to help you determine what activities you are interested in.  This will help you when you get ready for your registration packet.

Next, hover over the shop title and click on the swag section. This shows you everything that is being offered by the event and the individual prices. Some or all of these items may be to your liking, and some may not. Jot down the items that you may be interested in. Do not purchase them yet, until you see the different registration packets. The registration packets have different levels with different swag included at a discount. You may find everything you want in a registration packet at a lower price than buying them individually.

Take note of that USB drive will not be used this year. We will offer many different ways for you to get the GPX file on Friday and Saturday.  Some options will be a download station to help get them to your device, available for download on a password protected website, and library boxes with limited access for people to download at MOGA Central.  We offer this with the data you will need to find the geocaches hidden for the event. In order for us to be certain that everyone has signed or approved the liability waiver, we instruct Geocaching.com to hold publishing the event geocaches until after the event on Saturday. The options will hold the GPX file for all of the event geocaches that will be published on Saturday night. This means the registered attendees get first chance at finding the event caches, by downloading the data onto a laptop and then inserting them into your GPSr unit or phone. So, the geocachers who attend the Friday night event will get their packets, which will include instructions for accessing the GPX files, and download them into their units and immediately have the opportunity at a First to Find (FTF) on many event caches. This is why the line is long for the Friday night event. If you are a geocacher who loves to go after FTF’s then the VIP registration packet may be what you will want (more on that later).

Next, let’s look at the competition section. Here it shows all of the competitions that are offered at this year’s event. You should now be familiar with the different competitions if you read the competition manual from the info section. You will notice there is a $5.00 charge for each person in each competition. This charge helps us defer some of the costs associated with the competitions, like maps, punch cards and award medals. Because of the unique designs of these medals and the low quantity of coins we order, the rarity of the award coins makes them quite valuable. There is a MOGA Events rule that says no event award coin will be sold, they must be earned. The exception to this is the VIP special edition award coin. These coins are made of a different metal than the award coins given to the winners of the competitions. Therefore, purchasing a VIP packet is the only way to get an award coin without winning a competition.

If you are planning to enter a competition, now would be the time to select it and put it in your shopping cart.

Next, we finish by selecting the registration tab. Here you will see the different packages made available for this year’s event. You can select each one and scroll down to familiarize yourself with all of the different swag each package offers. The packages differ from year to year, but the top level is always the VIP level and the bottom level is always the free level. MOGA requires everyone attending to register for the event. That being said, you may ask why I would want to register my newborn. Groundspeak requires at least 500 attendees to have a Mega Status on an event. The only true number we have is through registration. When you register every person planning to attend, at the end of the event, we can get an accurate count of attendees by taking the total registrations and subtracting the registrations that were unable to make it. There is also the liability waiver that needs to be addressed, but to answer the question; you would be helping us insure we keep a Mega status for our future events.

The top level of each events registration is the VIP package. Every year, depending on the event theme, the name changes, but it’s still the VIP package. You may ask, why would anyone want to spend that much money on stuff? Well, in a survey, we asked just that. The answers varied, but what it all came down to was the hidden value of the perks. MOGA strives to make the VIP level attendees special. We have failed at this in past years, but we learn from our mistakes. During the event, there is a separate room made available just for the VIP’s and their entourage. What is their entourage? To answer this, let’s use Crock-fighter and Miss Sheila as an example. Crock-fighter purchases a VIP level for himself. Miss Shelia just wants an event coin, a t-shirt and a neck wallet. They are also bringing their two kids, so he gets them each a neck wallet because they each come with 6 raffle tickets. They do not have geocaching names, so he registers them as Crock-fighters son and Crock-fighters daughter. MOGA sends Crock-fighter an email questionnaire asking who and how many people are in his entourage. When they get to the Friday event, they enter the hotel and follow the signs to the VIP room and give the concierge their name. The concierge already has the packets for each person which they take to the table to check the contents. They are offered refreshments, which consists of bottled water, snacks, fruit, and cookies. Crock-fighter loves to get First to Finds, so the concierge sends a runner with his GPSr to the geocache download table and has the event caches put into his unit. All four of the family has a special color name tag or marking which shows the concierge that they can enter the VIP area at any time.  Each event has different perks that they may or may not be able to offer, namely the VIP parking, but some other perks may be front row seating at the awards ceremony, special items in their packets like discounts at the local stores or restaurants, or maybe something simple like a comfortable couch in the VIP room to rest and have a snack. There is a limit to how many VIP packages the event can offer, so if this is something you would like to try, you may want to put this in your shopping cart before they are sold out.

In the registration section, select the packet you want for yourself. Fill in all needed info like t-shirt size, name tag info, etc. Read and accept the liability waiver and place the packet in your cart. Next select the packet for anyone else you want to purchase for and fill out their needed info. After you have added everyone who will be attending with you, you can check your cart contents to make sure you have not forgotten anything. When you are done, select the tab for check-out. Here, you will be asked to LOGIN. If you remember your login name and password, enter it now. If you do not have a login, create one by filling in all of the needed information. You will be asked to enter a login name and password. Write it down, because the password program will expect a high security password to be entered by using letters, numbers, upper and lower case, and special characters. If your password is weak, the system will not accept it. When this is done, you will enter the payment screen. You will have the option of paying by check or by PayPal. NOTE: If you wish to pay by credit card, select the PayPal option.

If you wish to pay by check, select that box and the screen will inform you of the address for you to send the check to. Your order will be put into a working status. You should send the check immediately so you do not forget. If the order is not paid in 30 days, it will be cancelled and the inventory returned to stock. When our treasurer receives your check, they will change your status from working to pending. You can return to the website at any time to check your status. After you login, go to your account status, it will tell you the status of your orders. If your order status says working, the check has not been received or there is a problem. If your order says pending, then the check has been received and everything is good.

If you wish to pay by credit card or PayPal, select that box and the screen will take you to the PayPal login screen. If you have a PayPal account, login to your account and complete the PayPal instructions.  If you do not have an account and wish to pay by credit card, PayPal will currently require you to open an account. This is done because of their fraud prevention policy. It prevents someone from using your credit card without your knowledge. PayPal is a free and very secure service. They have a very good reputation of protecting your private information. MOGA Events Inc. pays for this service. There is no cost to you at any time to pay a bill through this service. When your payment is complete, your order status will be set to pending.

All orders will show pending if payment is received.  The orders will not change to complete until registration is closed and the receipts and the packing lists are printed by the software company.  If, for any reason, you wish to cancel an order, you may do so at any time one week before the event starts. Contact us, through the website, and instruct us to cancel your order and give us the order number. We will do so and send you a complete refund. The refund will either be by check or through PayPal. If it is within a week before the event, only the Event Director can approve a refund. This is because money has been spent to process and fill your order. The Event Director may deduct these costs from your refund.

If you cannot attend the event and you wish to receive the items you ordered, you may give a friend a copy of your receipt and instructions for us to give them your order. If they do not have a copy of your receipt, only the Event Director can approve the staff to hand over your order. A phone call to the owner may be required.  Any orders not picked up at the event, will be filled and await shipping. You will be contacted with the amount needed to ship your items to you. When we receive the shipping costs, through PayPal, we will ship your items. We will not accept a check for the shipping costs. If you do not want to pay for shipping, other arrangements must be made for pick up. If no arrangements are made after a month from the event, your order will be donated to a local charity.

The Events

The question we most often hear is “When should we plan to get to the host city for the event?” The answer is “As fast as you can!” I remember talking to a hotel manager and owner just before MOGA 2009. They said “You geocaching people are a strange group. When the weather looks bad, we have hunters and fishermen cancelling their hotel reservations, but the geocachers call us and ask if they can stay for more days.” The reason for this is obvious to us. Geocachers don’t care much if it’s raining or sunny, they want to find geocaches. When most of the attendees are from out of town, they find a plethora of geocaches in the host city and they realize they will not make a dent in them in only a few days. In some host cities, trying to find all of the high favorited geocaches may take the whole weekend. This is why you hear some geocachers say they are arriving a week early or leaving a week early and caching along a route. They know that the event itself will publish a minimum of 100 new geocaches and most of them will be regular size ammo cans full of goodies their kids will smile about. So get to the host city as fast and as early as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

So you have arrived at the host city, checked in to your hotel or have your tent set up or motor home parked on a camping lot. You have your pocket queries run and loaded into your laptop computer. You have a copy of the MOGA agenda, which you wrote down on a piece of paper that’s stuck in your back pocket. You may have even found a few caches in town and got a feel for the area that you are now in. There will be side events that you should consider on maybe Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning before the Friday Night Event. The MOGA Events are what we are going to focus on here and the first one is the Friday Night Event. This is an event you should not miss if at all possible. This is where you check in for the competitions or the only time you can register for any of the competitions you wish to participate in if you did not do it online. This is where you find out about the poker run and the special event cache that is unique to all MOGA Events. If you want a chance at getting a First to Find on any of the MOGA Event caches, this is where you can get them downloaded into your GPS or phone and then run out the door.

Trackables

It has always been a MOGA policy that we DO NOT provide a trackable table at the event. Since we have most of our volunteers busy with the events and with the competitions, we do not have enough to properly handle the enormous amount of trackable items that can show up at a Mega Event. When St. Louis hosted GeoWoodstock XII, the trackable volunteers reported over 23,000 trackables changed hands during the event. What we recommend is for the people with trackables to put them into the 100 regular size caches that we usually hide for any given MOGA Event. So please, do not drop them on a random table at the event, for that is how they get lost.

Special Event Cache

The special event cache was a tradition that started in 2010. The theme was ‘space’ and the special event cache was the “Monolith”. The Monolith (GC23Z5Z) was a replica of the monolith in the movie “2001 Space Odyssey”. In 2011, the theme was ‘pirates’ and the event cache was a full size Treasure Chest at the cache “Treasure Island” (GC2PBKB). You had to have a copy of the event coin and the award coin to find the treasure. In 2012, the theme was ‘The 50’s’ and the event cache was a replica of a jukebox. The cache is “jukebox “(GC3BTZF). In 2013 the theme was ‘the middle ages’ and the event cache was “the Sword in the Stone”. It was a sword sticking out of an ammo can and you had to get the combination to a lock to pull out the sword. This cache container was auctioned off at the event. In 2014 the theme was ‘secret agent’ and the event cache was a brief case that had to be decoded to unlock a special compartment and disarm the fake device.  In 2015, the theme was ‘Egyptian’ and the event cache was a multilayered pyramid that worked like a cryptex.  This cache was raffled off at the event. These event caches usually come with good prizes for the person or persons who get the First to Find.

Friday Night Event

The Friday Night Event was known as packet pickup night. It has grown to what it is today as a giant Meet & Greet with vendors, entertainment, costume contests, and also packet pickup. This event usually starts at 5pm. If you arrive early, expect a line waiting for the doors to open. If you purchased a VIP packet, look for the signs that will point you to the VIP area and go in. If you are early, be patient, have a seat, and the concierge will get to you when they can. MOGA is the most unique Mega Event that you will ever attend. Do to the competitions and the liability waiver you must go to the registration area and get your name badge before you can do anything else. You must present your name badge before you can purchase anything from the event store, or get information for the poker run, or download the event caches into your GPS or phone, or sign up for any of the competitions. If, for whatever reason, you were unable to register for the event in time, there will be a table, inside the room, for you to do so. Everyone who registered for the event, whether it was a free registration or something higher will go to the registration table. Again, if you registered for the VIP or the highest level offered, you should go to the VIP lounge. When the doors open, the registration table will be the first area you can get to. There will be alphabetic sections for you to wait in going by your real last name. So, if your real name is John Smith, you will go to the line with the ‘S’. If your real name is Jane Doe, you will go to the line with the ‘D’. You should have a copy of all your receipts with you before you enter. This will make everything run faster. You will go to your line and tell the person your real name, not your geocaching name. The person will find the envelope with your name and verify the items you ordered. A copy of your receipt will be in the envelope along with your name tags, raffle tickets, and any other paper items. If you have your copy with you, you can compare them together. The registration person will instruct you where the event store is located, so you can get the rest of your items that you ordered. The important thing is you now have your name tag. If the line at the store is long, you can register or check-in at the competition table, or get your GPS or phone downloaded, or check out the poker run information. Just don’t forget to pick your items up at the store.

The Event Store

The event store is set up in two sections. One section is the presold section. This section holds all of the swag that was sold online during the registration process. The other section is the unsold section. This section holds all of the swag that can be purchased by any individual who has a name tag. The unsold section will have a limited inventory to sell. There is usually a good supply of coins, pathtags, extagz, and other various items the Event Director selected to offer. The main limited items would be t-shirts. If you require a t-shirt larger than an XL or smaller than medium, chances are they will not have one in stock. This is why it is best to pre-register online before the event.

After leaving the registration table with your envelope that holds your name tag, receipt copy and other paper items, you will be directed to go to the presold section of the event store. When you get to the table, a helper will again ask for your real name. Here they will have your packing list for every item purchased. The packing list is identical to your receipt copy except it does not have the prices listed. The helper will ask you to step aside while they fill your order. When they gather all of your items, they will bring them over and check off every item from the packing list that they give you. When you have all of your items and everything is checked off, they will ask you to sign the packing list, proving you have received all of your items purchased. When the event is over, the packing lists that were not picked up are filled and set aside. These people will be contacted once we determine the costs to ship the items to them.

Once you have all of the items you purchased, you are free to leave the event and go caching if you wish, but most people stay and check out the vendors and the items they are selling. They mingle about looking for old friends and also check out the costume contest of the geocachers who decided to dress up according to the theme of the event. Others look for geocachers who would like to form a team for the 2 person and the 4 person competitions. Sometimes ‘Signal’, the official geocaching mascot, makes an appearance so everyone can get their picture taken and, if they are lucky, get a free trackable travel tag. Whatever you decide to do, have fun and enjoy yourself. Make it a memorable experience because there are lots of geocachers who never get a chance to attend a Mega Event.

The Saturday Main Event

Check your agenda to find out when the doors will open. If anyone did not have a chance to pick up their packets, today would be the day. This is a very busy day for all of the people who volunteered to help with this event. If you see a staff member, thank them. There are countless hours put into the planning of this day for the task of giving every geocacher too much to do. It is our goal to try and make every geocacher and their kids have a great time. Our successes are the reason this event started with 80 people in 2004, to a Mega event in 2009, to what you will see when you attend on this day. The individual competition starts in the morning. Teams will still have a chance to register for either a 2 person or a 4 person team in the morning until around 10am. After that, we cut it off so we can get the computers updated for a 1pm start. Check your agenda for start times and starting coordinates. Everyone is welcome to be a spectator, but most are out caching by this time.

The Competitions

The competition coordinator will give a speech before the starting horn goes off. The speech changes from year to year, but there is one part of the speech that is the same, year after year. If you sign up for a competition and you get a punch card from the competition coordinator. BRING THE PUNCH CARD BACK!  MOGA Events Inc. is very serious about your safety and wellbeing. Your name gets a check mark next to it whenever you are handed a competition punch card. At the end of the competition we circle every name from every punch card that returns. If we do not get your punch card back, we must assume you are still out on the course. If you do not come back and give us the punch card, we will send people out to look for you. If they cannot find you, we will call the police; we will call the forest rangers; we will call the local search and rescue; we will do everything we can to find out where you are. MOGA 2014, Athens, Ohio; we had two members of a two person not return. We got their emergency phone numbers from registration and started calling them; no answer. We called every ten minutes, but it was starting to get dark. Just before we called the local search and rescue, the two men called back. They were safe, they knew they were too far away to keep from being disqualified, so they decided to stay out and find some geocaches that were in the area. The Event Director knew these men personally, and from my understanding, had a few choice words for them over the phone. MOGA 2016, Cincinnati, Ohio; two women and two kids each signed up for the individual competition that morning and were given punch cards. At the end of the competition, they did not return. We notified the park rangers who were helping us that day. One was on horseback and the other was in a squad car. We had people driving around and walking in the woods searching for these people. From 10:30am to 1:00pm we searched with no luck. We called the local police who found all 4 of them at their house eating lunch. Their excuse was they decided not to do the competition so they went shopping instead. Most of the day, that was supposed to be fun for the volunteers, was ruined because they went shopping. BRING THE PUNCH CARD BACK!

When you arrive at any of the competitions to compete, there will be two stations. One station for check-in and one station to download the punch coordinates into your device. You must visit both stations. There may be long lines, so get there early. Be aware, once you visit any one of the stations, you cannot leave the area unless given an okay by the competition coordinator. We recommend the device you use should be a GPS. There are times we have difficulties getting the coordinates in certain phones. If all you have is a phone, you take that risk. Everyone should have a phone to communicate with in case of an emergency. There will be phone numbers on the punch card to call in case of emergency. Put your name on the punch card as soon as you can. We will not accept it if your name is not there. We had a team lose a gold medal because they did not sign their cards. The punch card will have numbered squares which will match the number of punches available. When you find a punch, it will have a number on it. It should match the number you are seeking. Position the nails of the punch into the same numbered square and press firmly. Make sure the nails go through the card.

There will be an allotted time, from the start time, that you must return in to prevent being penalized. It is usually 2.5 hours, but can change from year to year. When you return, you must get to the check-in table and hand over your signed punch card. Make sure the coordinator writes down your return time. If there is a tie, whoever gets back first will win. After you turned in your card, leave the check-in table area so other competitors can get to it. If you are part of a 2 person team, you must stay together throughout the course. It is legal to carry a teammate through the course. We do not advise you to carry a baby or child because of safety reasons, but there is currently no rule against it. We would prefer that your child can at least walk/run under their own power without assistance. Another common question we get is can we take our child with us when mom and dad are the two person team. The answer to this interesting question is almost the opposite of the previous statement. If the child can assist the team in finding or looking for the hidden punch, then the answer is no, not allowed. If the child is an infant and must be carried, then it is allowed. It’s permitted, though, to sign up as a 4 person team, even though you have only 3 people. The advantage to this is the child may lower the average age of the team and put you into the lowest age bracket of the 4 person team. The child could stay with one of the parents, hunting punches, while the other parent runs off to find a different set of punches. You won’t have a chance of winning the MOGA Cup, but you could have a chance at a gold medal. When a 4 person team returns, all 4 teammates must be present when the team captain hands in the 4 signed punch cards. If anyone loses a punch card, that person will be disqualified, but the punch cards for the rest of the team will still be counted. If there is still time left before the allotted time expires, it would be a good idea for that person to go back and search for the missing card. Once the team captain turns in the remaining cards and the time is recorded, the missing card will be disqualified, even if it is found.

After the competition, it is wise to jot down which punch numbers you and your team found. This is because every punch number is associated with an actual geocache that has been placed for the event. Finding a punch, during a competition, and punching the punch card is the same as signing the log. A list will be made available, on the website, of which punch, in which competition, is associated to what geocache and the GC#. Permission is granted for the competitor to log those caches. It does not mean you can log all of the caches, just the ones you found during the competition.

The Saturday Awards Ceremony

The awards ceremony usually starts sometime between 6 and 7pm. Check your agenda for the exact time. When the ceremony starts, this signals the vendors to start shutting down their booths. If more room is needed for the crowd, the staff may shut the vendors down early, so make sure you visit the vendors before it is too late. All of the raffle boxes will also be collected, so make sure you get your raffle tickets placed in the containers you want before it gets shut down. To win a raffle item, you must be present to win. We will not ship these items. If your number is called and you are not there, a new number will be selected after a given period and a new winner will be announced. The Master of Ceremonies will be the MOGA Director of the event. He will be in charge of the flow of the ceremony. The MC will talk about how the day went, give out prizes for the games played that day, offer thanks for his staff, and give out special awards and so on. Near the end, the competition coordinators of all the days’ competitions will present the Medals to the winners. The last thing to happen before everyone is dismissed is the Director of the next MOGA event will give a presentation of his host city and theme of their event.

The Sunday Activities

Sunday usually hosts a CITO in one of the host city parks, as a thank you for allowing us to play in your city. Check the cache page for the place and time of this event.

Almost everyone checks out and either heads home or they go caching in the area first before leaving. A few people stick around for another day and get some caching in before leaving on Monday.

Thank You

Thank you for your interest in our event. If you or your group would like information about hosting MOGA in one of your Midwest Cities, all you have to do is contact us on the website, talk to us at the event, or grab one of the Directors Staff and we will help you.