February 16, 2009
Groton celebrates winter
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Dustin Snyder takes his hand-built sled on a recycled toboggan race Saturday during Groton Winterfest at Groton Elementary School. The seventh annual event included dog sled exhibitions and other activities.
GROTON — Valentine’s Day means nothing when competition is on the line.
The Groton Winterfest recycled toboggan races Saturday proved that.
While professional sled dog racer Roy Smith of Lacona showed onlookers how a team of sled dogs works, and children assembled wooden kits from Home Depot inside Groton Elementary School, five entries prepared for runs down a hill behind the school.
Last year’s winning team of Josh Barron, Dustin Snyder and Jared Moore returned with an entry called “The Mistress,” made from sheet metal mounted on skis and painted red, with a bicycle’s central pipes and handlebars on the front, balancing on a single ski cut from scrap iron.
Toboggans for the event must be made from raw materials.
Barron, a Groton High School senior, and Snyder and Moore, who graduated last year, assembled their toboggan in the shop at Moore’s family farm.
Moore’s sister, Amy, and her teammate Heidi Chamberlain made their own sled at Chamberlain’s house, from a metal shopping cart painted gold and fitted with a plastic seat, adorned with a pink piece of carpet, all mounted on skis.
The two seniors called it “The Mistress’ Valentine’s Day Nightmare” and painted an image of Cupid on the front.
Barron and Amy Moore are a couple. So are Chamberlain and Jared Moore.
It did not matter. Each tried to defeat the other, as toboggan racers pushed off down the hill and then tried to go the farthest on the snowy field below.
Chamberlain and Amy Moore won the group division, with Chamberlain riding alone in the sled. They nosed out the men behind “The Mistress,” who were upset at first and then shook off the loss.
“We were robbed,” joked Snyder.
Meanwhile, two sets of cousins countered with “Cupid’s Expeditions,” a rocket-shaped toboggan made of paper on a wooden frame, large enough to hold four children.
Seven children of sisters Lynnette Bush Proctor and Sharmin Bush Eckert made the toboggan. They won the family division, as the quartet of Nathaniel Eckert, 7; Nicholas Eckert, 3; Seth Proctor, 13; and Stephen Proctor, 10.
“The kids tried different ideas before they settled on the rocket,” Lynnette Proctor said.
This was the 7th Winterfest, sponsored by the Town of Groton Recreation Department. It attracted more than 150 people.
Recreation Director Viola Fitzgerald said a $750 grant from Tompkins County Community Celebrations helped to fund it, with donations providing more funding.
The Winterfest raffled off a one-hour sled dog adventure with Smith in the Winona State Forest in Mannsville, in Jefferson County.
Smith said he races teams of 18 to 22 dogs in events lasting 15 to 30 miles. His dogs are lean, strong hybrids called Scandinavian hounds, bred from hounds, whippets, English shorthaired pointers and German pointers.
They can reach speeds of 30 to 40 mph, he said.
Twice, Smith hitched four dogs to his sled and let them pull him, exploding across the snow next to the town athletic fields. Last week’s thaw had left the snow too thin for Smith to give rides, as Fitzgerald had hoped, but he still told about 40 onlookers how his sport works.
Smith said he races professionally in Quebec, New Hampshire and occasionally Minnesota. He operates a bio-diesel business and Adirondack Kennel in Lacona, in northern Oswego County.
The dogs pull his 20-pound sled and his 180-pound body usually at average speeds of 20 mph.
“In 15 years I’ve just trained a few sled dogs, leader dogs,” he said. “The leaders train the other dogs.”
In the smaller school gym, Home Depot, a home improvement store chain, provided children and their parents with seven kinds of wooden kits to assemble, including book ends shaped like football helmets, a flag holder and a football-shaped stool, plus the nails and hammers.
Children received orange aprons that said Kids Workshop, a weekend program the store in Ithaca operates, said Coordinator Bill Hulbert.
“The easiest kit is a napkin holder,” Hulbert said. “The kits are for kids aged 4 to 12. I have a 5-year-old, and he’s been doing this since he was 2.”
At long tables, parents helped children nail the kits together.
“You’re doing great,” Rob Neff told his son Brystal, 6, who used a 7-ounce hammer to pound nails, struggling to get the hammer high enough. Neff’s other son, Jeter, 5, watched.
Neff said he had been at the school since early morning, cooking pancakes for a breakfast to benefit town youth baseball.
“This is a good thing to do, for kids,” he said of the kit assembling. “We’ve had a rough winter, an old-fashioned winter.”
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