News

1/30/2013  Omega Sled Team Slides To Silver

http://www.stltoday.com/suburban-journals/stcharles/news/o-fallon-s-cabin-fever-daze-offers-tonic-for-winter/article_b6e483ef-77bb-53c8-91ac-86813c6315d2.html

(See Gallery For Picture)

A group of Boy Scouts proved to be too much for the Dukes of Hazzard and “General Lee" in the final human dog sled race Saturday afternoon in O'Fallon Sports Park.

The race was a featured attraction in O'Fallon's first Cabin Fever Daze winter festival, a three-day event reduced to two days when Sunday's activities were canceled because of rain and ice.

The race wasn't exactly high seriousness, but the festival was very much in line with the idea of staging a family oriented, fun event designed to help deal with the winter doldrums. Another popular activity was a fruit cake chuckin' contest.

In this case, the Dukes of Hazzard was a group of friends from Chesterfield, O'Fallon and Dardenne Prairie who dressed as characters in the popular television show. They lost the race, but won for best costumes.

Their “sled” was an old Radio Flyer toy wagon customized with go-cart wheels attached to a cardboard box painted orange and dubbed the “General Lee” after the Dodge Charger in the television show.

“We loved it,” said David Frissell, 34, of O'Fallon, who dressed in all white as “Boss Hog” and was one of four people pulling the sled. It wasn't quite clear who was playing Cousin Jesse, Daisy or the other characters of Hazzard County.

“We had a blast. It was well worth staying up till 4 a.m. working on the sled,” Frissell said.

The Boy Scouts were the genuine article — six members of Troop 813 of O'Fallon who were actually at the event to man a booth selling hot chocolate, hot dogs and chili to raise money for a trip to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

“It's a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Nick Graceffa, a member of the 26-member troop.

Event organizers were hoping for a bigger turnout, but the Dukes and Boy Scouts were the only teams that signed up for the human dog sled race. Each team had six participants — four pulling the sled, one rider and one “musher” in the back of the sled.

“It's a brand-new event, so there's lots of interest but not as much commitment,” said Jennifer Hoisington, the city's festival organizer. “I think we're doing great with the two that we have. They obviously are having a lot of fun.”

The race was a straight-line affair of about 50 yards, with the winner having to take two out of three heats. The Dukes took the first. The Scouts took the second easily, with the Dukes' Nancy Crawford, 46,  taking a nasty spill and being dragged several feet over the finish line amid laughter from her teammates.

In the end, the young legs of the Scouts — Graceffa, Jacob and Jeff Ward, Jake and Josh Kennedy and Jake Hudanick, all age 14 or 15 — were too much for the older folks, all of them in their 30s or 40s.

“Yeah, we were a little iffy at first. We saw their first run and we thought we could beat them,” Jacob Ward said. “Then they started running out of energy.”

The winners received $50 Visa gift cards. For the Dukes, second place meant pizza certificates and tickets to River City Rascals minor league baseball games.

Stacey Whyte, 34, of O'Fallon, who wore a white wig, said the race was fun. “The spectators thought it was hilarious,” she said.

Crawford said she was fine after her fall. “Wait until tomorrow, and she'll say, 'Ohh, what happened?'” Whyte said.

Julie Scerine, another sled puller, also liked the event. “The winter just gets cold and you can get cabin fever like the event says,” Scerine said. “It's just something fun to do, get out and get a little exercise and have fun with your friends. The weather was perfect, it really cooperated."

The event didn't draw massive crowds, even though the weather cooperated Saturday with sunshine and reasonably balmy temperatures for January. City officials said Saturday that perhaps several thousand people attended.

“It's turned out to be a very family friendly event, which is exactly what it needs to be,” said Bryan Wieczorkek, a city spokesman.

“I think it's fun,” said Brianna Cacia, 11, who was taking up ice skating for the first time on a synthetic surface installed for the festival. She wasn't graceful her first time out, taking a fall or two. “It's very hurtful, but it's fun,” she said, laughing as she came off the ice.

Her friend, Krista Cummings, 12, also fell. “They'll be sore,” said Brianna's mother, Lynn Cacia, who especially liked the idea of getting people outside. “This was a fun idea, I think,” she said.

At the fruit-cake chucking booth, Colin Arslanbas, 11, had just fired off a fruit cake into the woods, presumably to the benefit of the birds and small animals in the neighborhood.

Chucking fruit cake involved two people holding an elastic rubber slingshot on both ends while another participant pulled the rubber band back, then let it go. It cost $1 per shot.

Colin's mother, Nicole Arslanbas, didn't mind that the festival wasn't crowded. “I think it's great,” she said. Her children had gone through an obstacle course and went ice skating as well. “The kids have been able to walk up to everything,” she said.