Campus People Watchers stakeout Como Zoo

Student group, created last semester, people watches at places like the Mall of America and the Minneapolis Film Festival.

As crowds milled through the Minnesota Zoo Saturday afternoon, they were unaware that the animals weren’t the only ones on display.

Starting last semester, the Campus People Watchers student group puts a new twist on an old pastime with its organized outings specifically for people watching.

The People Watchers enjoy the crowds while taking in some of the Twin Cities’ best attractions including the Mall of America and the Minneapolis Film Festival.

Outings typically include a list of items, people or scenarios to find that give the People Watchers “fun points” as the gatherings turn into more of a scavenger hunt, Club President David Shaffer said.

The People Watchers at Saturday’s zoo trip searched for people with fanny packs, couples on cell phones and children on leashes, to name a few.

“If you see something that is fun, you might as well get a point for it,” Shaffer said.

Still, the People Watchers don’t simply sit and observe passers-by. They seek people experiencing human moments.

Biology, society and environment sophomore David Rittenhouse said he saw a small boy licking his grandmother’s arm and commenting on how good she tasted, while waiting to view one of the zoo exhibits.

Oddly, some people didn’t seem bothered by being watched. Insurance consultant and fanny pack enthusiast Angela Rathbun said she didn’t mind being watched.

“Fanny packs rock,” she said. “That is a different generation and if they want to break their backs and necks with heavy bags, let them.”

Similarly, Luther College biomedical sophomore Dan Daily said he wasn’t bothered by people watching him while he and his girlfriend text messaged.

“As long as I know they’re watching me, it doesn’t scare me,” Daily said. “It’s not like they are staring at me, it’s no big deal.”

This quirky organization is far from sinister. In addition to group outings, the People Watchers also plan to scope out other student groups.

The People Watchers hope to help their peers by providing them with information about what other student groups are actually like.

“You can read online and see what an organization says about itself, but that isn’t anything compared to an experience that you would actually have there,” Shaffer said.

People Watchers officer Kathleen Olson said the group was split into “infiltrating groups” that will attend student group meetings and then write reports about their experience.

“Just sort of like what the feel is and what they do there,” Olson said. “Sort of like a third-party perspective so they can get an inside look.”

The group hopes to combine this information with the student activities website to help students decide whether or not they might like to join a group.

Like all campus student organizations, this group is open to all students.

“This group is for people who like to do what we do; watch people, watch what they do, spot odd action,” Olson said.

Whether eccentric, strange or just plain unsanitary , the Campus People Watchers will be on the lookout.