As you stroll demurely through the crowds at this year's Tall Ships, delicately "ooh"-ing and "ahh"-ing at the Bluenose II and the Belle Poule, keep your eyes peeled for the people dashing erratically through the crowd wearing brightly coloured armbands. This is the Halifax Manhunt group and this Saturday night they'll be using you as camouflage.
Manhunt is, at its simplest level, city hide-and-seek for grown-ups. "Everyone already knows the rules, or at least the basics," says Halifax Manhunt organizer Marion Waldron-Blain. Each Manhunt game begins with an assigned Manhunter whose job it is to track down the other players---known as "fugitives"---and tag them, eventually forming a massive group of Manhunters chasing the remaining players. The last fugitive left free by the end of the game is declared the winner. The players stay in pre-determined boundaries and identify themselves with scraps of coloured fabric wrapped around their arms.
Waldron-Blain says the adult joy of Manhunt is using public spaces as a playground to hide, run and leap. "It lets you enjoy spaces that are normally only used for transportation or tourist attractions," she says. "Even when I walk down the street the next day, I catch myself looking for hiding spots."
A crowded Manhunt site offers a new set of challenges. "A crowded area like Tall Ships changes the game," says Waldron-Blain. "Blending into the crowd becomes the crucial thing. It's easier to hide in a crowd than on your own, but it's also harder to run away."
Playing in crowds also tends to elicit a crowd response. "When people see us running, dodging between people, in and out of shops, they want to know what's going on," Waldron-Blain says. "Pretty soon you get people yelling directions, telling you where the person you are chasing has gone to or helping you escape."
Although a Manhunt game among a gaggle of tourists has the potential to be fraught with accidents, Waldron-Blair says the group will be enforcing a strict policy: "Don't run over any bystanders."
The inaugural Tall Ships Manhunt will be assembling Saturday July 18 at the Wave at 8pm. Go to manhunt-halifax.com for more information.