SHELBYVILLE — Shelbyville business owners and community volunteers met Thursday night to begin planning for the 2013 Midwest Open Geocaching Association competition that could attract up to 1,500 people in April.

“This is a great opportunity for our community,” said Shelbyville Works volunteer Tad Mayhall. “We wanted to have a meeting to let businesses know what to expect.”

Geocaching is a recreational activity that uses GPS receivers or smartphone devices and other navigational techniques to hide and seek waterproof containers, called “geocaches” or “caches.” The competition will be held April 5 to 7 and headquartered at Shelbyville’s Chautauqua Building.

“It’s a great way to learn something about an area,” said Mark Shanks of Shelbyville. Shanks has been geocaching for 10 years. “My wife and I like it because it’s an outside activity, and we do it when we’re on vacation because it’s a great way to see places.”

Mayhall said the event could bring up to half a million dollars in revenue over the weekend and even more as geocache players discover the Lake Shelbyville area. For the competition, 150 geocaches will be hidden within a 25-mile radius of the Chautauqua Building. In addition to competitors, other hobbyists are also expected to attend.

“Obviously, we can’t host all of the people coming overnight,” he said. “In fact, motels in Mattoon and Effingham are already booked. But, all of our retail businesses can benefit from this.”

Businesses were encouraged to provide fliers and coupons for gift bags and even sponsor cache sites at their businesses.

In addition, local organizations can raise funds during the competition by providing meals.

Participants will also have the opportunity to enter raffles by providing canned food for area food pantries.

Mayhall urged business owners to adapt their business hours, staff and even stock to accommodate the crowds.

“This is one of the biggest things we will ever have given to us,” he said. “We get the opportunity to do this right the first time only once. Let’s do it.”

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