Yesterday I started my annual rounds to pick up raffle items for the Gunflint Lake Canoe Races on July 19th. For over 25 years these races have been held. Except for a few at the very beginning the races have been used to raise money for the Gunflint Trail Rescue Squad which became the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department some years ago. It's our annual community picnic on the Gunflint Trail.
When the rescue squad was first formed, everyone knew that it would take a coordinated effort by the entire community to financially support and to staff the squad. An unspoken understanding arose that the older residents (both seasonal and year-around) would raise the money. The younger, year-around residents would staff the squad. Eveeryone did the tasks that they did best to give the community a much needed service -- an ambulance and now a fire department.
Today the Trail residents still contribute according to their abilities. Anyone who has every chaired the event will tell you that the committees are the best ever. They just do their jobs year in and year out with almost no direction. Many committees are now headed by a second or third chairman who learned their job from the previous chair. We need lots of unusual skills too. One man stands at the cash till for food and can quickly and accurately total the food cost in his head. Another couple spend a week or more carefully labeling all the raffle gifts so merchants get full credit. Three teams collect gifts throughout the community. So many women make sloppy joes and have for so many years that it's become everyone's favorite recipe.
On the day of the races about 300-400 people will appear at Gunflint Lodge in the late afternoon. Races start at 6:00 and so do the raffles. Smokey the Bear will be here. There are minnow races for the kids. Golfers can try their luck at hitting floating golf balls into a floating canoe. There are races for every age. Voyageur Canoe Outfitters often brings down a big voyageur canoe for rides. Last year, our Jamaican students even set up a little booth to braid hair. They contributed over $100 to the event.
The final event occurs around 9:00 p.m. when we raffle off a Winonah canoe which the Winonah Canoe Company has donated. For several years now it seems that the canoe has been won by some young staff person from a nearby resort who only bought one ticket. They will use this canoe for the rest of their lives. Bruce says these kids are much more appropriate winners than a gray-haired old fart like him.
Raffles and races, food and drink are all fine but the best part of the race is seeing all your neighbors. We may only see each other once a year but it is time to catch up on news and see how the kids have grown. My own children always remember canoe races in the summer. I know that I will be looking for Ken Rusk to get my annual hug and kiss.
If you are in the area, plan on spending the evening at the Gunflint Trail Canoe Races on July 19th at Gunflint Lodge.