Chris Whitted returned to a favorite childhood location in southeast Wichita on Monday morning to find this year’s Eagle Medallion.
Tucked away in the dirt near a row of trees in Emery Park – where Whitted used to ride BMX bikes as a child – the O’Reilly Auto Parts manager discovered a Copenhagen can lid with the medallion hidden underneath.
“I was dumbfounded,” he said. “When you flip it over and you see the medallion … I was kinda shocked at first.”
This was the second year Whitted and his wife, Janell, and 9-year-old daughter, Emryana, had actively looked for the medallion. Last year, Whitted searched near the John Mack Bridge along the Arkansas River, but never turned over the piece of bark to reveal the medallion hidden there.
“It’s figuring out the references, and then the definitions of those references,” he said. “That’s how I do it, just breaking it down.
“I’m really good at figuring out puzzles and solving riddles. That’s what I do.”
By day three of the 2015 medallion clues, Whitted had narrowed the location to a park or parking lot in Wichita. The fourth clue led him to No. 72 of the “periodic” table, which represents hafnium, named after hafnia, Latin for “Copenhagen,” where hafnium was discovered. “It’s all in the name,” the clue states.
“Obviously, in the Internet age, Google’s your friend,” he said.
Monday’s clue sealed the deal. Whitted correctly thought that “General” and “Douglas” referred to General Douglas MacArthur and that led him to two parks on MacArthur Road: Chapin and Emery. Chapin was too big, he said, and crowded so he ran across the street to Emery, which is home to Emery Park BMX and Emery Park R/C Club. Emery, near MacArthur and Hydraulic, was empty, he said, and it took less than two minutes to find the medallion.
“My family built the BMX track there, my mom and dad did,” Whitted said. “I grew up racing BMX bikes out there. I know it very well.
“I’ve got a lot of scars from that place.”
Whitted said the row of trees near where the lid was hidden used to be a wooded area where he would run around and hide.
Before leaving the parking lot, Whitted called his wife.
“His voice was shaking,” Janell Whitted said.
The Eagle Medallion Hunt is the only part of the River Festival the Whitteds participate in. This year’s grand prize: a full outdoor patio set worth $2,400 from Williams Ace Hardware in Andover.
The prize comes just in time, too.
“It actually worked out perfect because she’s been looking at fire pits and patio sets for the last two months,” Whitted said, “and we hadn’t found anything that we liked.”
“He almost got one for Mother’s Day and then decided against it,” Janell said, jokingly. “And then he finds this medallion and gets off scot-free.”
The Eagle will run a complete list of clues and their meaning later this week at Kansas.com and in The Wichita Eagle.