by Dan McClelland
This weekend's Brewski and Fire and Ice Golf tournament at the Tupper Lake Golf Course saw almost the exact same weather conditions as a year ago when the two events were first paired. The lack of snow didn't hurt the fun, nor the turn-out.
Both this year and last year ample snow cover for both outdoor events in early February was wiped away in repeated days of rain and unseasonably mild winter temperatures leading up to the combined event.
But despite the atypical February conditions, the driving range area of the golf course was rocking with good times all afternoon!
The Brewski, sponsored by the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Tupper Lake Lions Club's Fire & Ice golf tournament drew a crowd of well over 200 as people came to compete at winter golf or to sample the craft beer products of eight regional breweries or both.
This year's crowd came from all across the North Country and southern Ontario.
Like last year John Gillis and his volunteer crew of trail groomers had the golf course trails flat and well maintained- all ready for the Brewski, until the rains and thaw came.
In years past skiers and snowshoers have navigated the trails in the woods at the golf course where they encountered craft beer purveyors along the way.
Without snow last year the four or so beer vendors were moved over to the Fire & Ice site on the driving range, as they were again this past Saturday. With eight vendors and one distributor present they ringed the five-hole course.
The companies represented were Tupper Lake's Raquette River Brewing and Big Tupper Brewing, Valcour Brewing Company of Plattsburgh, Township 7 Brewing of Dickinson Center, Oval Brewing of Plattsburgh, Lake Placid Pub and Brewing, Big Slide Brewery of Lake Placid, Blueline Brewing and High Peaks Distribution, which brought along products from Livingood's Restaurant and Brewery and Saranac Beer.
The town's tracked trail groomer and trailer, stewarded by Eric Lanthier, with help from Jim Frenette and others, came in handy moving kegs across the driving range to the vendors' booths.
Saturday brought an overcast day with no rain, with the mercury rising to the low 30s. It made for a great day to be outdoors. Last year saw a torrential downpour of rain at about 4p.m. and high winds during the day, but this year the day was calm and dry.
The Lions outdoor tourney, while only attracting seven teams of three, drew a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from both the competitors and the dozens and dozens of beer-drinkers who cheered them on.
After twin five-hole rounds the team captained by Vickie Pickering and her two minions- husband Ricky and Bob Beaudette, emerged as the champs with a best round of 19. Vickie's team was the loudest of the tournament, spectators noticed. Vickie also routinely posed for passing photographers throughout their rounds.
Second best Fire & Ice golfers were Bob Lewis and Hayden and Paul LaMere. The good-looking trio boasted some big drives but inconsistent green play.
Our money was on the trio of Cindy Lewis, and Jim and Debbie Gaudet- but one never knows the intricacies of winter golf without snow, does one?
Competitive couple Pam and Scott Edwards, supported generously by the talent of Spencer Lanthier, claimed to be last year's best. This year was a different story, apparently.
Mayor Paul Maroun, who has teamed up with Bill Maroun and Carol Fuller for a great degree of success at past tourneys, was conspicuous by his absence this year, a victim of the flu.
No matter how the golfers finished every player seemed to enjoy this year's snow-free play.
Throughout the afternoon crowds of as many as 30 beer samplers moved from vendor station to vendor station to try out the products. There were many excellent beer recipes shared including some impressive stouts which boasted alcohol contents approaching 11 percent.
Another popular spot that afternoon was around the Lions fire next to the cook shack, where there were often 40 or more folks gathered. The freshly bucked-up wet pine donated by Gary Drasye and Lions Club President Dan McClelland's dry stuff underneath made for a nice afternoon fire the was enjoyed by many of the visitors. The club president didn't singe his hair this year.
The Lions club organizers were happy Joe Salamy didn't ignite himself, as he kindled the fire initially.
The crew in the Lions cook shack was like a well-oiled machine, serving up Lions favorites all afternoon. In addition to the usual Lions fare dogs and burgs, a big favorite that day were Shaheen's Supermarket sweet sausages, smothered in green peppers and onions. Working the grills with appreciated skill Saturday were Lions Chris Zaidan, Rob Drasye and Joe Salamy. Helping too was Danielle Gagnier.
Free pickles from John and Patty Gillis' till-less garden above Moody were a bonus each serving, thanks to the local couple who always help out at the winter event. The few patches of ice which were present again got a coating of sawdust from the John's wood-working shop at the base of the mountain.
A number of other volunteers worked the registration booths inside the pro shop. Chamber leaders Hayley McCottery and Sue Fitzpatrick stayed busy selling $20 Brewski tickets to well over 190 beer drinkers.
Selling 50-50 tickets and golfer registrations for the Lions there too were members Gerry and Mary Sojda, Bob and Sioux Collier and Tall Paul Chartier.
Chamber officials said this week the 2018 Brewski was the biggest yet in the half dozen years it has been run at the golf course.
An interesting and welcome addition this year was the availability of eight balloon-tired bikes brought by Zander Connor of the staff of Lake Placid's High Peaks Cyclery.
The business was apparently prepared to donated the use of cross-country ski equipment and snowshoes for participants, had the snow cover stayed.
Zander told chamber officials, the fat-tired bikes were very popular at Saturday's event, and more so than at other events he's taken them to around the region this winter. People were riding them all over the driving range area and up and down the Big Tupper access road Saturday.
The office the chamber shares with ROOST on Park Street was very busy with calls in recent weeks from people all over who were eager to ski or snowshoe the Brewski.
The chamber's events director, Miss McCottery, told someone over the weekend she figured the crowd might have reached 500, had the snow cover held. There were also apparently a number of other beer vendors who called to find out more about the Brewski and about coming in the future.
After three or four hours of winter golf and beer-drinking, many people in the crowd wandered off the mountain down to Lakeview Lanes, where the local bar was eventually packed.
There it was announced that the winner of the Lions Club 50-50 drawing of $2,020 was Piercefield's Linda Pickering. She may take Neil on a well-deserved vacation.
In all the Lions netted about $3,000 in proceeds from the Fire & Ice, which included the golf registration fees and the sale of signs advertising local businesses, which this year were posted prominently on the side of the cook shack in the absence of snow to stick them in. All that money will be re-invested in Tupper Lake in the Lions community-service projects.
Spearheading the Fire & Ice team again this year were Lions Tom LaMere and Stuart Nichols. More than a handful of Lions including Paul LaMere, Mark LaVigne, Gerry Sojda, Joe Salamy, Rob Drasye met with Miss McCottery, John Gillis and others most Tuesdays from Christmas on at Tom LaMere's shop to plan the big February event- and their planning paid off, despite an uncooperative Mother Nature!
by Dan McClelland