Finding ways to engage citizens in the spirit of celebration is a common challenge for community leaders when it comes to marking centennials and other civic anniversaries. That was the case facing the city of Neenah, Wisconsin, and its police department as both prepared for their sesquicentennial (150 years) celebrations in 2023.
Police department leadership and the mayor’s office discussed several ideas before hitting on a winner. What better way to encourage participation, and perhaps even build momentum throughout the year, than with a weekly treasure hunt?
The Neenah Police Department asked Medalcraft Mint to create an attractive three-inch medallion that could serve as the prize as treasure hunters followed clues posted every Monday to the department’s social media accounts.
“We initially talked about having a challenge coin,” explains Assistant Chief Jeffrey Bernice. “But then we thought, if this is going to be a treasure, it truly needs to be a unique piece of art. When we got the artist’s proof back from Medalcraft Mint, we were truly amazed. We didn’t think so much detail could fit in a three-inch medallion.”
The medallion sits inside a sealed package, and the lucky treasure hunter is directed to scan an accompanying QR code that alerts the department when the package has been found. A site marker stays behind to inform subsequent treasure hunters that they were a little too late.
The first treasure hunt took place on January 2, 2023, and continues each Monday throughout the year. That means snow, leaves and other environmental factors can make finding these treasures more challenging some days than others.
“We had an occasion in April in which a snowfall covered the package,” Bernice says. “Somebody kicked the bag without knowing it and displaced it, and finally someone stepped on it several feet away from where our clues had said it would be.”
Only 100 total medallions were struck, making them a relatively rare commemorative from the sesquicentennial celebration. The extra four dozen were offered to members of the police department and at various events throughout the year.