OXBOW Cold brews in one hand, warm horseshoes in the other, 42 throwers gathered here hoping to turn the clinks of metal on metal into a cha-ching at the bank for the fire department.
Its a good cause for this fire department, said Bob Gonyea, Gouverneur, whose team was undefeated in its first two games.
The Oxbow Volunteer Fire Company and its roughly 30 volunteers depend on fundraisers like these on a biweekly basis just to keep the lights on. It receives $20,000 from the town of Antwerp, but its operating budget can run from anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000.
The seventh annual event Saturday while slightly scaled back from its usual number of teams because of occasional rain was expected to raise $500 or $600 toward that goal, mostly through food sales. Cash prizes were available for the winning teams.
A total of 21 teams of two came out Saturday to play horseshoes, which involves throwing the metal shoes toward stakes on the ground several yards away. Players win points for getting the horseshoe around the stake.
As is the case at many volunteer fire departments, its harder to get people to give up their time to serve, said James T. Cricket Mandigo, the fire companys chief.
Lots of kids dont want to do what I wanted to do when I was a kid, said Mr. Mandigo, who joined the department in 1986.
To reduce accusations of favoritism in judging, none of the members of the department are actually allowed to play. Plus, if an emergency comes up, the volunteer firefighters have to leave the event to respond. It has happened during the event almost every year, Mr. Mandigo said.
The players come from nearby towns like Gouverneur, Edwards and Rossie, and many, like Mr. Gonyea, said they attend the event because they like shooting shoes and they enjoy the camaraderie. In between swigs of beer and underarm horseshoe throws, the players confirmed the sense of community that many talked about interrupting conversations between contestants and a reporter with inside jokes and jabs about how the players are throwing.
Organizers hope to make the event happen more often than once a year. Mr. Mandigo said he is trying to get together a league among volunteer fire departments. The Oxbow company, on County Route 25, has permanent stakes and pits in its backyard. The nearest league is in Ogdensburg, Mr. Mandigo said, and it has been about 10 years since the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair has included the game.
The proposed league, which Mr. Mandigo said he hopes to get off the ground next year, would benefit any volunteer fire department that hosted the game.
It would only add to the types of events from chicken barbecues to pizza sales that are necessary for the company to meet its budget.
Its how we keep going, Mr. Mandigo said.