May 13, 2013
Happenin’ Hamlet a hit
McLean’s 9th annual festival pays tribute to fallen military members
McLEAN — A K-9 officer named “Ice,” a giant ice cream sundae and a goat bingo were among the attractions at Saturday’s 9th annual Happenin’ in the Hamlet at the McLean Fire Station.
The event ran Thursday through Saturday featuring activities, rides and craft fairs.
This year’s theme was honoring fallen military heroes, said organizer Nick Totman, adding a parade and a memorial ceremony were to take place later Saturday afternoon.
But Saturday morning participants cheerily gathered to watch children play games and to see a giant ice cream sundae being made. All proceeds went to the McLean Fire Department and the ladies auxiliary. One of the sponsorship activities was a “cake wheel,” in which participants put a quarter on a number and a spinning wheel picked the winning number.
Meanwhile, opposite that display, children rode gleefully down long slides on burlap sacks.
It was only the second year that the rides were a part of the festivities, Totman said.
A unique feature this year was a police dog presentation Saturday afternoon in which State Police Trooper Quentin Giles displayed his German Shepherd’s narcotic sniffing abilities.
The dog is named Ice, a nickname shortened from the name of a state trooper killed in a traffic accident in Morris in 2010, Jill Mattice. At Giles’ command, Ice leaped to work, sniffing at FedEx boxes that lay scattered by the police truck.
Ice soon settled on one box, pawing at it excitedly before being rewarded by a moment of play with Giles who tossed him a piece of rope.
Giles said the substance that Ice pointed to was a federally manufactured replica of methamphetamine, one of the many drugs dogs like Ice are trained to locate. Ice can also find heroine, LSD, Ecstacy, cocaine and marijuana as well as some designer drugs like bath salts, Giles said.
Narcotic dogs are trained to react to their targets in an excited fashion, different from bomb sniffing dogs who will calmly sit when they find a bomb, so as not to activate it, he said.
Giles carries anti-narcotic drugs to inject if either he or Ice are exposed to the drug while on duty but Saturday’s replica drug was harmless.
Ice also is a rescue dog, one of many used by the state police to do things like find drugs or track lost or missing people.
Other animals on display were not as serious.
A pair of goats dressed in red, white and blue shirts and hats, stood placidly by a fenced enclosure that was to later serve as the “board” for goat bingo. The grass in the enclosure was marked in a grid, corresponding to numbers that people bought raffle tickets for. The lucky person to buy the ticket with the number where the first poop falls, would get $100, explained an event organizer, Linda Foote.
But for McLean resident Amy Pallone, Happenin’ in the Hamlet was all about being with her family and surrounding herself with community members she had missed during an 18-month tour in Iraq.
Pallone had her 12-year-old daughter Jazlyn, 8-year-old daughter Rayhanna and 12-year-old son Anthony with her. Pallone pointed across the street from the fire station to the house where she grew up, saying the small community and close-knit ties mean a lot to her.
“I left with the military and when I come back, this is home,” she said.
Pallone said the history of McLean is remarkable, with underground railroad tunnels and incredible tales like how a local doctor used the highly sulfurous creek water to heal the slaves’ feet. Her parents’ house, once a tack shop for horses and then a post office, contained ancient letters dating back to the civil war era, found when her parents renovated and later returned to families still in the area, she said.
“It’s cool learning about this and letting the kids learn about it,” she said.
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