Winterfest medallion hunt about memories, family


Visitors coming through North Branch in early February who are not familiar with the Winter Fest celebration might turn a peculiar eye toward people traipsing through the snow on public lands, intently searching for something.
But those who understand this annual rite know that bundling up, reading clues and searching outside is actually quite enjoyable.
Jim Antolik is one of those people. He and his wife grew up in North Branch and then moved away for 25 years before returning about three years ago. Shortly after they came back to the area, the Antoliks learned of the North Branch Area Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Fest Medallion Hunt.
The hunt, which the Chamber organizes every year as part of the Winter Fest celebration, draws numerous people out of their homes in search of the medallion. The person who finds the medallion, if they have already purchased a $3 Winter Fest button, wins $300.
“One night, one of our daughters and son-in-law came up to visit,” Antolik said. “I said, ‘Hey, there’s this festival that goes on in town, and they’ve got some kind of a medallion hunt going on.’ The kids brought up the stuff on the smartphones, and we started looking at clues and talking about it. This was probably 10:30 p.m. when we started. Everybody got all wired up, my wife and I and my daughter and son-in law jump in the car, and we’re out driving around at 11 p.m., it’s minus 25 degrees, and we’re trying to figure this out. The next morning, we get up real early, and everybody is waiting for the next clue.”
From that first night, the family was hooked.
“The next morning we called up the two other daughters and told them about this, so then they started looking online and trying to figure things out,” Antolik said. “The long and short of it is we ended up with three daughters up here and a couple of son-in-laws looking for it at one time. We went to the right place, but we didn’t find it. We left, and later on is when somebody found it on Sunday. That’s what started this thing.”
Now the hunt has expanded into an entire family affair for the Antoliks, with all four daughters and three son-in-laws taking part. Antolik said two of his daughters actually took off work last year when the hunt started, and one of their son-in-laws was using Google Earth during his down time at work to see if he could ascertain where the medallion might be, based off the clues the Chamber releases each day of the hunt.
“It’s gotten carried away,” Antolik said with a laugh. “We’ve had so much fun with it. Every time we’ve been right there at the spot where it’s been found, but we haven’t found it yet. It would be fun to find the medallion, but what it’s done is it’s just become this crazy, fun thing for the whole family to get together and run all around. It’s just been great. It’s starting to become this event. As soon as the dates are out, all of the kids want to know when it is.”
Winter Fest in North Branch is Feb. 8-12. Clues in the medallion hunt are released Feb. 8 and continue until Feb. 12, unless the medallion is found before that time. The clues for the hunt can be found on the Chamber’s website, along with a list of Winter Fest events:

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