Harborquest clues – what do they mean?

The fourth clue of Harborquest 2020, as seen in Thursday's newspaper.

Each year, the Harborquest team at The Palladium-Times crafts hints to guide readers to the Medallion. We receive many requests for an explainer on these hints after the contest is over, so below we happily oblige. NOTE: Your mileage may vary! Some clues are better than others.


The news came fast and hard in May that Harborfest had gone away

For one hard year we will hold on until the virus threat is gone.

No crowds, no tunes, no food truck eats,

We’ll miss your beer and wine and treats.

“BUT WAIT,” we heard, from far and near


We want to search, to quest, to find,

We want to look for clues in rhyme!”

Well here’s the first one, our dear Questers,

And in this court, I’ll be your Jester.

Listen closely to my lines, for therein is contained the kind

Of information that will shine a spotlight and your paths align

With last night’s moonlight glinting clear. Maybe this will be your year?

I placed it carefully, you see, and if you find you’ll agree.

Good luck, be safe, check back each day

We’re glad to have you join us play.

For Monday’s clue, we recapped the extraordinary circumstances behind this year’s Harborquest including the cancellation of Harborfest due to the COVID-19 pandemic and introduced you to the speaker in whose voice the clues will appear. Monday’s Harborquest clue is generally the most vague of the week with little in the area of explicit hints. The first clue serves to set the tone for the rest: the moon will serve as your spotlight for this quest. There are no streetlights and little residential light is visible near the Medallion hiding spot in the forest near the city dog park on Mitchell Street. The Medallion was in a small clearing between three trees – paths “aligning.” We also introduce here the concept that nature will play a critical role. The Medallion was “placed carefully” – it was not in a spot that would require much of physical activity (digging, clearing brush) to discover.


With one whole day now come and passed,

Some very frequent questioned asked

Are ‘Where’s the gold?’ and ‘Where’s it hid?”

And hide it well, you’d bet I did

The looking’s barely just begun

A careful Harborquest I’ve spun

To make the city come undone

When seeing what the winner’s won

Tuesday’s clue contained several small hints.  Harborquest 2020’s hiding spot was considered by many to be the most challenging in recent years — we hid it carefully, and would not divulge information in any form other than the printed and online clues. Traveling to the location of the medallion takes you past what most residents consider the city center – you witness the city ‘come undone’ the further you travel, as houses and businesses become more and more distant from each other.


The midweek blues have got you down? Come on, there’s treasure all around

Do you like trees? Or rocks and dirt? Well then just let me reassert

You’ll find it if you look real hard, (but please stay out of people’s yards)

I’ve given you some clues, it’s true,

The Questing now is up to you.

On Wednesday the clues become more explicit. The Medallion is placed near “trees, rocks” and “dirt” but requires no travel on private property to find. Questers have now received, in hints, information on the Medallion’s location, hiding spot and method of placement.


Thursday’s here but have no fear, no found golden Medallion here

And still it rests, a shiny guest of Mother Nature’s gentle nest

Don’t be stressed, but I suggest this missing loot should be addressed

By one who’s blessed and has expressed a hunger for a gainful ‘Quest

With still no winner Thursday, we again state that the Medallion is close to nature – so close in fact, that it “rests” (on the ground) in a “gentle nest” (dirt) made by Mother Nature. The Medallion was resting on the ground, in plain sight. A residential property’s driveway sits at the exact opposite side of the road where one should enter the forest to make a straight line for the Medallion – the ‘address.’


The final day so I’ll be brief, I urge you to check every leaf

And trunk and branch and root and stem

A forest you will find me in

The water’s near but not a beach

And stop when Sammy you have reached

An east side verdant thicket fair

I’m waiting – will you find me there?

Friday’s clue goes for broke on the nature and tree imagery – note that “leaf, trunk, branch, root and stem” are the only terms used. No bushes, ferns, fronds, grass, etc. The Medallion’s forest hiding spot was relatively near Lake Ontario, but did not require travel down Smith Beach Road “near but NOT a beach.” Sammy is, of course, the late beloved dog of Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow for whom the city dog park’s entrance road is named. On the east side, in a green group of trees, near the dog park – the Medallion waited for five long days.

Thank you everyone for playing!

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