MOGA bringing 1,000-plus geocachers to town

Owensboro should see more tourists in town this week than it’s seen since the summer of 2019.

Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, is expecting about 1,200 people from across the United States — and even a group from the United Kingdom — for the Midwest Open Geocaching Adventure Friday through May 30.

The economic impact of MOGA is expected to be around $400,000, he said.


Calitri said most of the geocachers should be coming in early and spending more time in town.

A family from Alaska is already in town, he said.

People are tired of being stuck indoors for the past year, Calitri said.

Jesse Tuttle, executive director of AFK Geocaching and organizer of the Owensboro event, said MOGA, which is being held in Kentucky for the first time, “is typically the world’s largest annual geocaching competition mega event.”

The event, which started in 2004, is a hybrid of geocaching and orienteering.

“For those unfamiliar with geocaching, it’s a recreational activity of hunting and finding hidden objects,” Calitri said. “Participants use global positioning system receivers and devices to find caches, which are waterproof containers with logbooks, trinkets and other fun swag type items inside.”

The geocaches are hidden ammunition cases and cylinders with prizes in each.

GPS will take participants to the location of each case.

But Calitri said, “They might be buried in the ground or they might be 10 feet up a tree.”

Tuttle said, “Owensboro is very accessible. And there haven’t been many events like this in a year and a half.”

He’s hiding 60 “orienteering punches” in Yellow Creek Park and in the Rudy Mine section of Ben Hawes Park for people to find in 90 minutes.

Once they find the cylinders, they open them and punch the card.

“There’s only been one event where every punch (cylinder) wasn’t found,” Tuttle said.

That was in Cincinnati in 2016.

Sixty ammunition cans will be left out year-round to attract geocachers to visit Owensboro on their own.

“People will come all the time,” Tuttle said. “It’s a long-term investment for the community. People want to do it.”

He said, “There are several side activities that will have attendees exploring attractions, shops and hometown restaurants within the region.”

Chris Gendek, destination services manager for the CVB, said, “Having a national-level geocaching event during Memorial Day weekend is a great fit for a weekend that is normally slower for visitors coming to our community.”

GeoWoodstock?The CVB is hoping the success of MOGA will land Owensboro GeoWoodstock XIX, the world’s largest geocaching festival, in 2023.

If that happens, Gendek said, it is expected to bring from 4,000 to 5,000 people to town and pump an estimated $1 million into the local economy.

Calitri said there are nearly 500,000 active geocachers in the United States and more than a million around the world.

Daviess Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said MOGA is “a win for those participating to see our great parks and it’s a win for our hotels and restaurants after the COVID pandemic.”

Tuttle is also placing five to seven yellow 2-foot-tall Minion statues — from the movie “Despicable Me — in businesses around the community.

Geocachers will visit the stores, find the Minions and remove a poker chip from them.

They’ll then go back to a central location where they’ll be dealt a poker hand.

The idea is to bring people to local businesses, Tuttle said.

The event is sponsored by the CVB, Daviess Fiscal Court and the Owensboro City Commission.

Claude Bacon, vice president of sales, marketing, and e-commerce at Owensboro-based LinGate Hospitality, said, “It’s great to support new events that bring state and national attention to Owensboro. Many hotels, restaurants, small businesses and others benefit from the inflow of visitors that deliver an economic impact to the city and county.”

Greg Floyd, owner of Ole South Barbeque, said, “Anytime there is a special event in Daviess County, we see an uptick in our sales. We are clearly supportive of new events coming to town and especially after an extremely difficult year.”

Before coming to Owensboro, Calitri led the Cincinnati East CVB.

While there, he helped build several GeoTrails in Cincinnati and partnered to host several geocaching events, including the 2015 Freedom GeoTrail event, MOGA in 2016 and GeoWoodstock in 2018.

This year’s MOGA is called the “Barbeque, Bourbon, and Bluegrass GeoTour.”

Promotions say geocachers will also be looking for Bigfoot.

“Kentucky is one of the strangest places in the country with accounts of UFO’s, flying creatures, Lizard Men, werewolves, and goblins,” one promotion says. “But one stands out above the rest — Bigfoot! Delve into the long, strange history of Bigfoot in the Bluegrass State that goes all the way back to the legend himself, Daniel Boone.”

Tuttle said the event’s kickoff will be at the Owensboro Convention Center from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday.

Closing ceremonies will be there at 6:30 p.m. on May 30.

Messenger-Inquirer article written by Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 [email protected]