Downtown business owners holding treasure hunt for $20,000 in Grand Forks

Mar. 31—GRAND FORKS — There is a treasure worth $20,000 hidden somewhere in Grand Forks. In this case, the "treasure" is a piece of paper, but for the lucky person who finds it, the reward for turning it in is $20,000.

Inspired by a real-life treasure hunt that brought adventurers from around the world to the Rocky Mountains in search of $2 million worth of treasure, downtown business owners and friends Justin Auch, owner of Also Creative Inc. and co-owner of Urban Stampede, and Matt Winjum, co-owner of Rhombus Guys, have teamed up to hold a treasure hunt in Grand Forks.

Their hunt, called Seven Paces, will start on May 5. Auch and Winjum plan to release a series of clues to the hunt's participants, which will lead to the hidden treasure.

"I might be biased, but I think it's a really cool thing — I think it's a lot of fun," said Winjum. "It's family friendly and it gets people out in the community."

Registration for the May 5 treasure hunt is open now and ends on April 15. The hunt is limited to 1,000 participants and costs $50 to enter. Only registered participants will have access to the hunt's clues and be able to redeem the treasure for $20,000.

The story of the Fenn Treasure, a treasure chest filled with gold and jewels hidden in the Rocky Mountains by art dealer Forrest Fenn, inspired Auch and Winjum's treasure hunt. Clues for where to find the hidden treasure were contained in Fenn's memoir. Treasure hunters looked for the treasure, thought to be worth $2 million, for around 10 years before it was found in 2020.

"I was always looking for clues and stuff from here, trying to figure it out, and we would talk about it," said Auch. "Then we got the idea — why don't we just do this in town?"

The pair played with the idea for a couple of years before acting on it.

"We talked about it for probably two years, never really moving forward with it, but always liking the idea that it would be something really fun in the community," said Winjum. "People are always looking for stuff to do and that could be something that was unique."

To test the treasure hunt concept, Auch and Winjum hosted a free hunt in November, which had around 100 participants. Despite the cold and snow, the event was a success, said Auch.

"People came out and they did it. They had a great time and that was awesome," said Auch. "That kind of gave us a little inkling of hope it might actually work."

The hunt in May is designed to last two to three days, with one clue released each day, said Auch.

Ten percent of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Community Violence Intervention Center, a Grand Forks nonprofit with a goal of ending interpersonal violence.

"We really believe in their cause and all that stuff, so we're really happy to be roping them in on this," said Auch.

Depending on the number of people that register, up to $5,000 could go to CVIC. After the prize money is awarded and costs for putting on the event are covered, any profits made from the hunt will be considered profit.

"We will probably take a loss on this first hunt, but this is just hopefully the beginning," said Auch.

If the first Grand Forks treasure hunt is successful, Auch and Winjum say they would like to host more in Grand Forks and other locations.

"We'd like to do it over and over, but that's all going to be dependent upon the success of the first one," said Winjum. "It's new for us, so we might not have all the kinks perfectly ironed out, but if people get behind, support it and do it, we can get better at it."

More information about the Seven Paces treasure hunt is available on