Some serious detective work was involved on the part of the medallion hunters who found the much sought after Pepsi Marigold Medallion on Wednesday.
Kyndall Zander, Seth Ranney and Todd Vansaghi read Tuesday’s clue and went out to McNaughton Park. Clue 8 said, “there is a place to turn about.” The rest of the clue gave “a bird in a triangle” and the group knew they were on the right trail. The trio had walked the trails at McNaughton in the past and the red triangles gave it away. Zander found the medallion off the trail and waited to pick it up until all of them were present. They have hunted for the illusive medallion for many years together.
Zander said there were other hunters in the park, but there was a gathering of conservation officials, “so it looked like the place was absolutely packed.”
“The biggest clue to get us out here for sure was the turnabout,” said Zander.
The trio was at another location when the bird in the triangle clue was released.
“We remembered that these were over here in this area, so that brought us down here,” Ranney said. “As we came to this trail, there was (one of the signs) at the trail (entrance) and there was another sign about halfway down the trail.”
Ranney, a detective with the Pekin Police Department, said one or more times a night the trio would talk about the clues and try to get into the head of Clue Writer Gary Gillis.
“(Being a detective) helps you with the sticking with it type of thing and just grinding it out with these guys,” said Ranney. “We’ve done this for quite a long time and grew up together — we’ve done these a lot.
“It’s more just that we put all of our heads together on a regular basis. We spend way more time working on the clues than we do actually out searching. It’s a nightly thing or multiple times a night. It just depends on how far in we are, how good the clues are. We’ll bounce ideas off of each other and try to figure out if it’s something Gillis would do or not.”
The medallion is no stranger to two of the men — Ranney’s sister, Rachel Ranney, and Zander’s sister, Kaci Zander, found the medallion in 2005 in — where else — McNaughton Park.
The team plans to share the medallion on a rotating basis and will also work together with other family members to choose a prize. The medallion this year nets the winner a trip to the Mediterranean or Las Vegas.
Vansaghi said they really didn’t care that much about the prize — they just wanted their name associated with it. He said Zander got him into the search about 10 years ago.
“That’s really more of our reward,” said Vansahgi. “Actually, we talked about contacting the girl who made it and see if maybe we could pay her to make a couple of more for us.”
Pekin Community High School student Emily Woodley made two of the medallions for the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce — one for the winner and one for the chamber to keep.
Gillis said he wanted people to work for this medallion hunt win. The trio called him at 6:52 a.m.
“You’re always happy as the clue writer when the person who finds it has worked it, especially has worked it for many years,” said Gillis. “I knew this year, given the difficulty, there would be no one, first of all, who stumbled on it, and second of all, it would take some hard work.
“But you’re always a little on edge until it’s done.”
Chamber executive Director Bill Fleming said the medallion hunt continues to bring families out every year.
“It just seems like there are a lot of people and a lot of families that are excited about it because they can pull people together to talk about what the clues mean and where they think it is,” said Fleming. “When you drove around town this weekend, there were a lot of people in a lot of places looking under bushes. I think it’s the thrill of the hunt.”
This is the ninth time the medallion was hidden in the park since the medallion hunt was initiated in 1978, said Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Fleming. That number includes the park, the Soldwedel Program Center property and the dog park off of Parkway Drive — all park property.