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Brewski draws hundreds to popular ski course

Dan McClelland

The Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce hit a home run for the promotion of the town's Tupper Lake Cross-Country trail network at the golf course Saturday, by introducing hundreds of nordic skiers and snowshoers from around the region to our popular skiing place.

For many the day of introduction was the chamber's fifth annual Brewski, which was an unrivaled success, drawing a record number of 476 participants.

-And what better way to enjoy the great outdoors and promote the fun that can be enjoyed on the newly named James C. Frenette Recreational Trails than with samples of the Adirondack region's best craft beer sprinkled along the way.

For the staging of the Brewski, and its sister event, the Tupper Lake Lions Club Fire and Ice golf tournament the conditions and weather were perfect- a calm and relatively balmy winter day with long periods of sunshine. That's rare in these parts, it seems, and particularly this unusual winter.

The last two years saw no saw and high winds at least once.

The Tupper Lake trail volunteers, directed by John Gillis, had the main 12 foot wide Brewski trail through the woods in immaculate shape- groomed and packed flat with a set of deep ski tracks. It made travel easy for skiers, snowshoe folks and walkers.

The groomers also packed the fairways on the Lions five-hole course, making it easier to walk and hit the tennis ball.

Along the trail through the woods along the various fairways were eight local and regional brewers, who included our own Big Tupper Brewing and Raquette River Brewing, plus some other regional notables: Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, Big Slide Brewery and Public House, Blue Line Brewery, Oval Craft Brewing, Valcour Brewing and Great Adirondack Brewing.

Their products were as diversified as they were delicious, although we were careful not to overindulge during our adventure around the course. Participants were given tiny souvenir plastic glasses to carry in their pockets.

For $10 a head per adult with kids under 12 years free, it was a deal!

This year the chamber brought back Hayley McCottery, who was events coordinator last year, to run the Brewski and she was blown away by its success.

Hayley had a feeling it was going to be big, given the traffic to the chamber's web site in recent months, but drawing nearly 500 participants was beyond her imagination.

“It was absolutely incredible,” she told the Free Press Monday.

The place was so busy the entire golf course parking lots were full and cars lined the Big Tupper Road from above the driving range where the snow golf competition occurred to across from the late Sam Parmelee's house and down into the Tamarac subdivision. The place was jammed with people and vehicles.

After the event the chamber web site was overflowing with kudos from visiting and local participants- heaping high praise on the event's organization, the wonderful weather and the excellent trails.

“Oh, my gosh,” a humbled Hayley said of the robust praise.

Hayley this week credited the Tupper Lake Lions Club and the local trail grooming volunteers, who she met weekly with this winter in preparation for the big dual-event weekend with Saturday's successful end result.

The grooming volunteers not only had the trails in perfect shape but on Saturday they put trailers on their snowmobiles and ATVs and moved the beer vendors supplies to their sites along the trail.

“John and his crew were wonderful,” the organizer said.

She also said the Lions too were a joy to work with. She met with its Fire and Ice committee each Tuesday in recent months at Tom's Lamere's shop to plan the golf part of the event.

Next year Hayley plans to hopefully draw more local businesses into actually participating in the joint event.

Many local businesses, as usual, did support both events again this year with sponsorships, judging by the many business signs erected at the Brewski start and around the Lions cook shack.

Key sponsors of the Brewski were Belleville and Associates and High Peaks Cyclery.

The Lake Placid-based sports company again brought ski equipment and snowshoes for participants without them to use for free. The business also made loan of a dozen or so of the new fat tire bikes, which a number of participants were delighted to use. These go great on packed trails, judging by those we watched “bomb” around.

There were no alcohol-related driving mishaps, thanks in large part to the participation of the volunteers of Tupper's popular Mac's Safe Ride.

The Lions Fire and Ice drew ten teams of snow golfers, the most ever in its 9-year history. The event was co-sponsored in its early years by both the Lions and Rotarians, but three years ago when it was moved off the windy shores of Raquette Pond at the municipal park, the Lions went it alone.

For the past two winters, however, there's been no appreciable snow cover. For the organizers the third year was the charm.

Adequate snow cover also permitted the chamber to move its event back into the woods where it was designed to be, as opposed to the along the open fairways of the golf event.

The top team Saturday was one led by Lion Paul LaMere and including Matt Patnode and Shaleen Wood. They finished the five-hole play with a 19. The team may have had a handicap as the lion designed this year's course, which included a tricky venture into the woods to find hole No. 2.

Second best team of the day was Team Lewis with a 20. Cindy and Bob went it alone without a third, and bested eight of the teams. The Free Press Publisher was supposed to be their third but he didn't make it back in time off the beer trail.

Incidentally the second place golfers also did the Brewski route, such skiers they are.

The biggest winner, however, at the Lions event was Dick Beauchamp, who was the holder of the winning 50-50 raffle. His prize: an impressive $2,450. Those active Lions ticket sellers in past weeks easily topped last year's biggest prize of $2,000.

There was a second Lions raffle that was combined at the after-event party at Lakeview Lanes with a similar one the chamber was running.

Some of the key Lions who made the Fire and Ice a success this year were course marshall Tom LaMere, who often counseled the golfers at the start, raffle master Stuart Nichols, course designer Paul LaMere and the cook shack crew- Chris Zaidan, Rob Drayse, Joe Salamy and Danielle Gagnier. Working diligently in the warm pro shop, opposite Sue Fitzpatrick and Hayley, at times, were Lions Mary and Gerry Sojda, Bob and Sioux Collier and Debbie Moody. Great sellers and promoters, all!

Hayley said this week she can't wait for next year. Neither can all those who took part in this year's big February day at the golf course.

Kudos to all who helped make the dual-event day the grand success it was!

-Dan McClelland