The Midwest Communications Winterfest Medallion Hunt has been a collaborative effort between Bob Thornton, 41, of Esko and his parents, Bob and Judy Thornton of Duluth.
"The clue was given on the radio at 7 a.m. and I was on the phone with my parents by 7:35 a.m.," Thornton said with a laugh.
This was the 10th year of the hunt and the Thorntons have participated every year. This year's event began Feb. 4. The Midwest Communications radio stations gave a new clue each day about the location of the hidden medallion. Thornton won $5,000 and a Polaris ATV for finding the medallion this year.
Bob, a pilot for Delta Airlines, enjoys problem solving and a good challenge. It also works to his advantage that February is a slow time of the year for him, so he usually takes vacation during this time.
On the first few days of the hunt, Thornton took his parents dog for a walk in nearby parks to look.
Thornton's wife, Tammy, and children Allison and Bobby support him but are not passionate about the hunt.
"On the second day Bobby said, "you need to find that four-wheeler for me"," Thornton said. His wife brought him a snack and dug in the snow about 30 minutes one day, then left him to continue the challenge on his own. Four of the days Thornton and his parents spent up to eight hours digging in the snow searching for the elusive prize.
Thornton admits it helps that he has been participating each year and knows where the medallion has already been found. He also grew up in the area and is familiar with all of the parks in nearby towns.
Thornton won three years ago, but said it took longer because the clues were more vague. Last year was a bit frustrating because the clues did not narrow down the location. When he arrived to hunt in the park, there were about 100 others competing to find the buried treasure.
The last few years, he has been waiting for the medallion to creep a little closer to his home.
"For the last four years, I assumed the medallion would be in Proctor," Thornton said. This year, it was.
Thornton is a self-professed history buff, which helped him solve the most recent hunt. The sixth clue was: "As the quest keeps on going, this clue will help knowing just where the medallion may hide. The place that you seek, in a manner of speak, you could say that it's no longer tied."
The explanation of the clue explains that Proctor was at one time known as Proctor Knott. It was shortened to Proctor in 1904. Without the Knott, it is no longer tied.
The final clue that helped Thornton narrow down his search was 13. It hinted the medallion was hidden between fields 1 and 2 at the Terry Egerdahl Memorial Field baseball complex, not between first and second base. He searched quickly to beat out the eight other hunters who had narrowed down the location.
Two people were within 20 yards from him when he discovered the medallion under 2 feet of snow.
He was relieved when he discovered the medallion first.
"I felt relief from not having to dig any more," Thornton said. "It was a much different feeling from the first time, which was pure exhilaration. I did, however, yell and share the moment with the others in the park both times."