Isabella Lewis, 8 (left) and Kasey Baker, 5 — both of Brant Lake — paint pumpkins at a craft activity held Saturday in conjunction with the Great Brant Lake Duck Race — a beloved local community tradition. Craft session supervisor Maureen Robinson said the community was indebted to Chuck and Cindy Hilton and Danny Wolke for their donations of six dozen pumpkins for area children to paint and take home. Wolke also donated a massive 250-pound pumpkin that was to serve as a decoration at the event, but was left near the town ballfield because it was too heavy to move. “The turnout here was wonderful,” Robinson said.. “And the kids had such a good time..”
With a captain’s hat perched on his head, Eric Isachsen stood in the rain Saturday shortly before noon, gazing at the mill pond where the Great Brant Lake Duck Race would be held in a few minutes.
His duties as race “Quackmaster” would normally require him to guide the many hundreds of plastic ducks through a wooden channel towards a finish line, he said.
In the last several years, the weather has posed challenges, he added. Several years ago, the wind blew the ducks out of the channel, and the firefighters raced all over the pond in a boat attempting to round up the little plastic quackers. This year, the rain prompted the race officials to forgo dumping the plastic ducks off the mill pond’s upper-dam bridge, and the winners would instead be selected randomly out of a heap of ducks in the Horicon Fire Co. firehall, he continued.
Holding a minnow net, Adam Schultz, 10, stood nearby in the drizzle outside the firehouse, and talked about his hopes for winning a prize in the annual race. This year, few people showed up due to the rain, and his chances of winning, however slim, were boosted with the low turnout, he said.
Several years ago, his mother had made a deal with his babysitter that if she went to the firehouse and bought several entries for him, she could have half the proceeds if they won, the boy added.
“My mom thought the prize that year would be $10 or so,” Adam said with a grin. “But we won and we had to split $180 with our babysitter.”
As the boy was recalling the incident, several hundred more people showed up in the minutes before the annual duck race.
The morning’s rain subsided, and this last-minute crowd boosted the turnout beyond last year, race organizers said.
Andrew Masiello, 4, of Chestertown, stirred up the small plastic ducks — 1,639 of them— dumped in the bed of a pickup truck parked in the firehouse.
Andrew and several other children selected the winners from the hulking pile.
A four-digit number was called out. One of the numbers belonged to Adam Schultz’s duck — and he won the top prize of $409.
Adam’s eye’s grew large, and his grin, even wider, as he described how lightning had struck twice in this annual race.
“This is the most coincidentally interesting thing to ever happen to me,” he gushed.
His mother Alyson, who lives in Manhattan but spends occasional weekends and vacations in their Brant Lake home, walked outside the firehouse to share the moment.
“I love this local stuff up here — the community things,” she said. “In Manhattan, nobody cares about their neighbors.”
While young Adam’s thoughts turned to purchasing video games with the winnings, his mother found race official Barbara Blum and said she wanted to give half of the winnings back to the sponsoring organization.
“I want to give something back to the Brant Lake community that has been so good to us,” she said.