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Friends, Love Found At Winter Carnival Hunting Group

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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The 2012 St. Paul Winter Carnival starts next week and that means the countdown is on to the annual Pioneer Press medallion hunt.

Each year thousands scavenge the city hoping to find that hidden medallion which is worth up to $10,000.

One group takes on the task each year, but through the hunt they’ve found much more than a medallion.

“I’ve never done drugs in my life, but it has to be like doing drugs,” said Jake Ingebrigtson.

“A natural high,” added Rob Brass.

Ingebrigtson and Brass aren’t talking about bungee jumping or sky diving, but about hunting … for a medallion.

This is the 60th year of Pioneer Press’ real life winter treasure hunt. And it is one that people take very seriously.

“We’ve even got phone calls in the middle of summer from people who want to really plan ahead and make sure they have vacation time off from work so they can spend their time on the hunt,” said Pat Effenberger, Community Relations for Pioneer Press.

For some, the medallion is more than a treasure hunt. The social group called The Cooler Crew get together every year to search for the medallion. Some of them have found it, but others have found a different kind of treasure.

“My stepson came to live with us and he didn’t know anybody in the area. So, I brought him out and introduced him to the hunt. And he met Melissa during the hunt and she’s now my daughter-in-law,” said Mike McMahon

“I’ve met a lot of my closest friends through The Cooler Crew, through the Winter Carnival and through the hunt,” said Alex Valen, who has been searching since 1999. “It is a lot about the two weeks in January, but it’s not just about the two weeks.”

The Cooler Crew gathers at the start of the hunt for their pre-dig gig. There, they discuss strategy, speculate on where they think it’ll be hidden, and just have a good time.

“We’re one big, dysfunctional family,” said Jason Michaelson.

The hunt starts Sunday and runs through Feb. 2, unless the medallion is found before then.

Clues are released in the paper and online daily.

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