By MJ Hoecherl, UW News Lab
Enjoy a good mystery? Each summer, a real-life detective show unfolds in the Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods.
This year’s Gumshoe 5K Walk is fast approaching. Participants will have from Aug. 3 to Aug. 12 to complete the scavenger hunt-like community event for the chance to win nearly $1,000 worth of prizes, collectively.
Gumshoe participants discover a rock cairn clue during last year’s Gumshoe.
The Gumshoe, now in its seventh consecutive year, features 30 clues spread throughout the Phinneywood neighborhood. It winds its way through a 3.1 mile (five kilometer) loop. A single entry form to participate in the walk is $20, but buying two or more at the same time can bring the cost down to $15 each. All proceeds go to the Greenwood Senior Center, Greenwood Elementary School PTA and Greenwood Food Bank. (Last year’s Gumshoe raised $4,800.)
The idea for the Gumshoe Walk “was born on a napkin with a friend of mine in a café seven years ago,” said Gumshoe “Answer Man” and founder Mike Veitenhans.
He explained that he’d always loved to walk Phinneywood with his wife and wander around the neighborhoods, seeing things that you wouldn’t normally notice or appreciate simply by driving through. He had participated in many other walks around Seattle before, but always wondered why there wasn’t one in his neighborhood. So, he found a way to create a fundraiser out of an event for the community.
Veitenhans creates all of the clues himself in the months prior to the walk, which gets its name from an early 20th-century term for detective.
“I keep a map that shows everywhere that I’ve walked around the neighborhood before and keep notes of where I’ve found pieces of art, signs, restaurants, whatever. I hop in my Prius and go explore the area and make up the points as I go,” he said.
That’s why he’s called the Answer Man, along with the fact that participants can call him directly for hints if they can’t figure out a particular clue.
“He’s made it a bit more extensive over the years by adding GPS, so people who have GPS devices can find the clues that way, which makes it fun,” said Ann, a neighborhood resident and friend of Veitenhans who has done the walk herself over the past several years. (She asked that just her first name be used in this story.)
Volunteers “test drive” this year’s Gumshoe clues. Photo by Mike Veitenhans.
First prize for winning the overall walk is a $250 Fred Meyer gift card, followed by $150 for second and $100 for third. Fourth place receives a free breakfast at Mae’s Café as well as a day at the Woodland Park Zoo for two adults and two children, and fifth place walks away with a free dinner at The Olive and Grape restaurant, paired with tickets for two at Taproot Theatre.
There is even a bonus portion of the entry form called the Eatsy Street Game, which allows participants to correctly identify the eatery depicted in nine close-up photos for a shot at a $25 gift certificate to each eatery.
New this year is the GumShop Game, with nine photographic clues of shops in or near Phinney and Greenwood. Correctly identify the shops and you’re eligible for a drawing to win a $15 gift certificate to each shop.
“It’s just so great because I have all of these local businesses helping me out, while I help them out by bringing in new customers, all the while we’re both contributing to a great cause,” he says. “That’s the real benefit for the community — bringing people together.”
Stephanie Magill, a resident of the Phinneywood area, said that her two children (ages 5 and 7) had a blast playing detective with the event last year. She won tickets for two to Taproot Theatre where she and her husband enjoyed a free show.
“Honestly, it was fun for the whole family and for all ages,” she said. “It was definitely worth our time, and we’ll be doing it again this year.”
Entry forms go on sale on Friday at the Phinney Neighborhood Association, Starbucks on Phinney, Ken’s Market, and Couth Buzzard Books Espresso Buono Cafe. The cost is $20 per entry form, or $15 each for two.
(Disclosure: The Gumshoe is a PhinneyWood sponsor.)
(M.J. Hoecherl is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)