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2009 Meltdown Updates


2009 Meltdown Updates

Sunday, April 5th, 2009


The 2009 Meltdown is over.


After checking on the condition of the block and clock last night, I had the sense that one would be underwater and the other would be unplugged by morning.  I could see the ice floe move on the surface of the water each time a gust of wind blew by.  My greatest concern was that last nights strong winds would blow the block towards the dam and loosen the slack on the line to the point that even if the block went under, there wouldn’t be enough tension to pull out the plug.



When I made my way to the water’s edge this morning I could see the rope laying on top of what little ice remained and the flag sticking out of the water by a few feet.  Did my worst fears come true, I wondered?  My question was answered when I opened the door to the gatehouse and found a trusty, reliable, electric Timex clock that wasn’t working.



The clock read 11:02:08.


Since it was 8 a.m., I knew that the clock stopped the night before.


I had already prepared for the end of the contest by sorting the list of tickets by date and time.  There were 6 people that had chosen times between 6:00 p.m. on 4/4 and 8:30 a.m. on 4/5.  The closest to the actual time the clock stopped was Lisa Johnson, a co-worker / friend of mine.  Her pick was 12:16 a.m. on 4/5.  However, as we all know, it’s the person to come closest without going over that wins.  As a result, with a pick of 6:09 p.m. on 4/4, the winner of the 2009 Meltdown contest is Deb Doulette of South Deerfield.  Deb had submitted 5 tickets which spanned from 4/4 to 4/18 with the winning ticket being the earliest of the bunch.


I shared the news with her this morning.  When I asked her if there was significance to her picks, she said that she was really just trying to think of nice times to be out by the lake, watching the block go under.  She went on to say that she hadn’t checked the Farmer’s Almanac or Googled the weather for advice.  Said another way, she just got lucky.



Truth be told, I would not have thought the ice which was 18” thick a mere 7 days ago, would have gone out as fast as it did.  Lower Highland Lake in the center of town had its ice out on Friday.


As I mentioned in this morning’s update, 1,801 tickets were sold with an additional $336 of donations that will go straight to the Hilltown Pantry.  While the final accounting has yet to be completed, Deb’s winning will be over $800.  More importantly, this year’s contest generated over $1,000 for the Hilltown Pantry.




While I’m certain many of you are disappointed with the outcome, my hope is that over the past 10 weeks or so this contest produced some fun discussion for you and that my updates generated smiles and maybe even some laughter.  If so, I won too.


In closing, I’d like to offer many thanks to the Meltdown supporters from around the world.  A special thanks to my friends and co-workers for putting up with all my talk about that 69-pound block of concrete over the winter.  At the risk of leaving someone out, I’d also like to thank those of you who went out of your way to help drum up ticket sales with your family, friends, and co-workers.  This contest would not have been a success without you.


Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to my wife Sue and 'my boys' (Sarah, Alyssa and Hannah) for their help folding, counting, stapling, cutting, stuffing, selling and just plain being there when I needed them.  You continue to be the best.


Until next time…THINK SUMMER!


Saturday, April 4th, 2009


The April 1st update was greeted with comments that ranged from “You’re not getting me this time” and “Very funny, Bob” to “Ridiculous, Bob.  I love it” and “I almost believed it”.  Some people suggested that I must have been dreaming.  Others wrote to tell me that they didn’t realize it was a spoof until the 4th paragraph.  The Maverick Lady at www.hilltownsonline.com sent out a headline teaser that read “Obama Picks Goshen Meltdown Date”.  Still others sent notes of congratulations for securing Federal stimulus funds which leads me to this next item.


The one story that surpasses them all comes to us from Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton where two of my daughters go to school.  It seems that a teacher (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) fell for the fable hook, line, and stimulus funds.  I just happened to be at an event Friday night when said teacher approached me to ask again what pick President Obama had made.  Thinking that he was just being polite and striking up a conversation, I told him April 15th.  The President wanted to remind Americans that the tax deadline was right around the corner.  He went on to ask me what it was like to speak with the president.  It was at that point I realized he hadn’t put two and two together (in this case April 1 and stimulus funds).  I couldn’t let the charade go on any longer so I broke the news to him.  I explained that he had become a victim of my widely anticipated April 1st mis-representation of the truth.  He was crushed.  Not only had he fallen for the joke, he compounded it by telling others about the president participating in the contest.  To be certain, he has now been indoctrinated into an elite (and relatively small) group of individuals whose judgment has earned them a spot in the Meltdown history books.


Now that the ticket window is closed, I can proudly proclaim the 2009 Meltdown a rousing success!  One thousand, eight hundred and one (1,801) tickets were sold this year.  That’s an increase of 702 tickets or 64% over last years tally of 1,099.


Of the 1,801 tickets sold, 1,111 tickets or 62% were for times between April 8th and April 20th.  April 12th is the most popular day with 114 picks.  Last year’s most popular date was April 15th.


The most popular time was, not surprisingly, 3:00 p.m. with 63 picks.  The other popular times were 2:30 p.m. (58), 2:00 p.m. (56) and 1:00 p.m. (46).


Ticket submissions came from people living in over 100 cities and towns in 20 states, 18 countries, and 5 continents.


2009 Meltdown as of 04/03/2009 at 7 a.m.


The end of the contest is in sight.  As you can see from this weeks pictures, it doesn’t take long for the ice to deteriorate.  Temperatures remained above the freezing mark for most of the week.  Heavy rains on Friday coupled with winds gusting in the 30 – 40 mph range yesterday have taken a toll on the stability of the ice.


2009 Meltdown as of 04/04/2009 at 8 a.m.


A noticeable change in the color of the ice was evident on Friday.  The surface goes from a milky white to a murky gray.  This is simply an indication that the ice shelf is getting thin.


2009 Meltdown update as of 04/04/2009 at 10 p.m.


By last night, significant cracks in the ice were clearly visible as snow flurries and relentless winds pounded the block.


Expect another update very soon.


Wednesday, April 1st, 2009


2009 Meltdown declared eligible for stimulus finds


Not only has the 2009 Meltdown surpassed all previous records but it’s now in line to receive Federal stimulus funds.


As part of the nation’s effort to inject cash into the lagging economy, the 2009 Meltdown is receiving an additional $2,500 to improve the contest for future growth.


It all started with a call from Senator Ted Kennedy’s office.  Last week, a staffer on President Obama’s media watch team saw the story on the Meltdown done by ABC’s Channel 40.  I was contacted by their office a few days later and asked what I would do with the funds in the event they could earmark a portion for the contest.  After careful consideration, I suggested that underwater sensors would assist in tracking the condition of the ice while a series of web cams would enable participants from around the world to monitor activity on the lake throughout the year.


"If the scope of the work is going to facilitate additional ticket sales, it would be a positive impact on the contest." said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.


Not only was our request granted, we were also able to sell a few more tickets.



On Tuesday afternoon in the White House Map Room, President Barack Obama made his 2009 Meltdown pick official before boarding a plane to Europe to attend the G20 Summit.  To make it easy for the cameras to pick up, an oversized whiteboard with a presidential seal at the bottom was used to display his choice.  The president had worked on his pick earlier in the morning, going over it with his press secretary.



“After careful consideration and as a reminder to the American People that there are certain things in life that we can count on, I have selected April 15th at high noon for the block to fall through the ice.” said the president. 


Clearly, this is a major turning point in the history of the Meltdown contest.  Not only have we gone global, but now we have the leader of the free world participating in it.  While I had the president’s attention, I reminded him that April 1st was the deadline for tickets to be submitted and that he could really help the cause if he spread the word while he was in London.  He said he would.


The contest hit the airwaves on Monday with an interview I did with WFCR’s Bob Paquette.  Here is a link to the story in case you missed it.




I haven’t had a chance to tally all the returns that have been received over the past several days, but suffice it to say that ticket sales have once again taken off.  I’ll send out another update over the weekend that will include the numbers.  In the meantime, the ice is showing signs of melting with water now visible along the shoreline.


Sunday, March 29th, 2009


Spanning the globe, to bring you a constant variety of participants...the thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat...the human drama of the ice-out...THIS is Goshen’s 2009 Meltdown!


How many of you can hear Wide World of Sports music right now?


Thanks to Terrie Campbell and her guidance counselors at Camp Howe this years contest has truly gone global.  Camp Howe  is a 4-H camp located in the Daughter’s of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) State Park here in Goshen.  The staff is comprised of childcare professionals, students, and graduates from leading colleges and universities around the country and the world.  I went to their website tonight to find that they have a countdown clock which currently indicates only 90 days, 15 hours, 6 minutes and 32 seconds before camp starts.  Who knew?



When I arrived home from work Friday night, I found an envelope on the counter addressed to “Great Meltdown, Goshen MA 01032”.  Not surprisingly, the Goshen Postmaster put the letter in the fire department mailbox because he knew Sue stops by daily to collect her mail.  Inside the envelope was a check for $30 and a page full of names with addresses from all over the world – England, Scotland, Senegal, Australia, New Zealand, France, Mexico, Denmark, Turkey Sweden, Bahamas, Columbia, Switzerland and the USA.  I called Terrie for details on exactly who these individuals were.  She explained that most of them were her camp counselors.  She had contacted them over the off-season and asked them to send her their Meltdown picks.  Terrie went on to say that if any of them won, they had collectively agreed to use their winnings to donate a campership to someone this summer.  As a side note, Terrie’s family lives in Australia and apparently loves to talk about the Meltdown.  She mentioned that her mother sits in their ‘horrible’ summer heat with her quilting group talking about the contest and drumming up support.  I’m guessing that thinking of ice while quilting in summer heat is bound to cool oneself down.


As a result of Terrie’s efforts, we now have players from 5 continents, 18 countries, 16 states and a boatload of cities and towns participating in the event.


This was a big week in many ways for the contest.  An article by Dinah Gorelik of the UMASS Daily Collegian was published on Monday (http://www.dailycollegian.com/news/goshen-celebrates-annual-meltdown-1.1625053).  Her article starts off with the words “The annual “Meltdown” event in Goshen, Mass., sounds a lot like the proverbial watching paint dry, but waiting for ice to melt under a concrete block has never been so interesting, or profitable.”  I’ll buy that.


Channel 40's Eric Fisher interviews Sue Kalentic and Georgie McCarthy.


On Wednesday, Eric Fisher and his videographer Kevin Culverhouse from Channel 40 TV in Springfield paid a visit to the lake.  It was a picture perfect day to introduce a television audience to the Meltdown.  The first words out of Eric’s mouth after he introduced himself to me were “You realize that this is crazy, right?” to which I responded “Of course I do.  That’s what makes this fun.”  The story aired both Thursday and Friday (http://www.abc40tv.com/Global/story.asp?S=10075411 – be sure to click on the video in the top right corner of the page).  Eric’s on air partner Faye Hoffman referred to me as the ‘McGuyver of Goshen’ after seeing how the clock was rigged up to the rope.


I heard from Bob Paquette (News Director, WFCR 88.5 FM in Amherst) over the weekend.  He’s hoping to air an interview we did last week during tomorrow morning’s 8AM newscast.  Tune in if you live locally and read this before driving off to work.  Otherwise, I’ll include a link to the story in the next update.



As I sit here tonight writing this note, we find ourselves in the middle of a thunderstorm – one that includes heavy rain and hail.  For those of you who have never experienced this before, hail sounds very interesting pounding against the skylights in our sunroom and on our metal roof.  Rain over the past three days has had a visible and physical impact on the ice.  The surface can best be described by what skiers refer to as corn snow.  The ice is still firm enough to stand on but unless it gets cold soon, it’s unlikely I’ll venture out onto it any longer.  The ice near the block now measures 18” thick.  That’s a 6” drop in thickness from when it was measured last Wednesday.  Looking ahead, this is the first time since the contest has begun that the 10-day forecast doesn’t have Goshen dipping below the freezing mark – daytime or nighttime.



The silence of winter has truly been broken.  I was fortunate enough to be out early on Saturday to hear songbirds that had found their way back to the Hilltowns.


Duke and Buddy are back in the game again this year.  They’re dogs that are part of the Kirouac family in Goshen.


April 1st is only a few days away.  For those of you that have stayed on the sidelines until the last minute, now’s the time to take action.  Tickets can still be downloaded and sent to me as long as they’re postmarked by April 1st.


Monday, March 23rd, 2009


On a day where the blossoms are in full bloom at the Smith College Flower Show and the stock market soared almost 500 points, the 2009 Meltdown surpassed the 1,000-ticket mark!


With just over a week remaining before sales end, the tally now stands at 1,012 tickets sold.  434 (or 42%) of the picks are for times between 4/10 and 4/18.  The most popular day is 4/12 with 55 picks followed closely by 4/15 with 53 picks.  Thanks to support from the employees of the Coca Cola bottling plant in Pittsfield, we now have picks that stretch all the way out to May 15th.  As a friendly reminder, May 15th marks the height of black fly season in this region – a very special time of year for anyone who loves the great outdoors.


This years contest has now reached people in 79 cities and towns in 14 states and 4 countries.  Thanks to word of mouth (not to mention family and friends), we can now add Italy and Japan to our growing list of participating countries.



In my continuing effort to provide unsurpassed coverage of the 2009 Meltdown, no expense was spared to capture this week’s aerial photo of the block (No, really.  It didn’t cost the contest a dime).  This week’s picture is not from Google.  It was taken on Saturday when my nephew came up for a visit from North Carolina with his plane.  It took us about 5 minutes to fly from Westover Air Reserve Base to Goshen.  It was relatively easy to find Goshen once we were airborne.  All we had to do was steer the plane towards Mt. Greylock – the highest peak in Massachusetts.  Before we knew it, Upper and Lower Highland Lakes were on the right and Hammond Pond was on our left.  In the picture, you can see the flag that marks where the block and pallet are and the brown gatehouse on the dam where the electric clock is housed.  You can also see the water near the spillway that flows under the bridge at the dam.  That area is one of the few spots that doesn’t freeze during the winter due to the constant flow of water.



The Gazette published an article about the Meltdown in last Friday’s edition.  I also received a call from Bob Paquette, news director at WFCR (88.5FM) – our local National Public Radio station that broadcasts from UMASS in Amherst.  Bob interviewed me today for a spot that he hopes will air tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday morning.  Another story about the Meltdown is scheduled to be published this week in the Daily Collegian – the UMASS newspaper.  Eric Fisher, reporter and meteorologist from Channel 40 TV in Springfield is coming up to Goshen on Wednesday to tape a piece on the Meltdown.  Let’s see if I can get him to step out on the ice with me.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the continuing Meltdown coverage offered by the Country Journal – the voice of the Hilltowns.  Thank you Lisa and the rest of the Huntington staff!



I was out on the ice this evening right at dusk.  The temperature outside was 26 degrees Fahrenheit with northerly winds that were gusting to around 30 miles per hour.  Suffice it to say that it was cold.  Once again, I had brought out my drill to get a sense for the thickness of the ice.  As was the case last week, the drill went down 20 inches only to find that it still hadn’t broken through to water.  At 1,200 feet above sea level, Goshen can continue to boast that the ice on Hammond Pond is still several feet thick.


Just a friendly reminder that ticket sales will come to an end on Wednesday, April 1st.  If you’re in the Northampton area, you can now pick up tickets at The Elbow Room on Green Street near downtown or at the Florence Barber Shop on North Maple Street.

Sunday, March 15th, 2009


With just over two weeks left before ticket sales come to an end, the push is on to get as many tickets into as many hands as possible.  Today, I drove around the Hilltowns tacking up Meltdown flyers and envelopes of tickets anywhere I could find a bulletin board.  One of my first stops was at the Williamsburg Market.  On my way into the store, I noticed a couple sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch of the nearby Florence Savings Bank.  It was mid-afternoon and they were basking in glorious sunshine that was streaming in under the porch roof.  When I came out of the store, they were still there and appeared to be enjoying just watching people pass by.  I got in my car and drove around the back of the bank following the one-way signs to get out of the parking lot.  When I made it back to the front of the bank again, I decided to park the car and offer them some Meltdown tickets.  After all, I was on a mission.


I approached the couple and politely asked if they had ever heard of the Meltdown.  To my surprise they said yes.  In fact, they had just been talking about it.  Apparently, one of them recognized me when I went into the market and said to the other “That’s the Meltdown guy.”.  But wait, the story gets better.  Many of you know me as a photographer.  I was often chided by my friends who thought my children would grow up calling me “Ricoh” because of the volume of pictures I took of them.  During this past 4th of July parade in Chesterfield, I took a picture of a man with his very young grandson who just happened to be placing stones on the fire hose that was being used for the Firefighter’s muster.  What struck me about the picture is that there was lots of action happening around this little child yet all he cared about was picking up small stones and placing them on the fully charged hose.  I snapped a few pictures and approached the man asking if he’d be willing to share his e-mail address with me so I could forward him the pictures.  He did.  One thing led to another and I never sent the pictures because I had misplaced the e-mail address.


Fast forward back to the front porch.  As I was talking to this couple, I thought that this man looked familiar.  I asked him if he just happened to be at the Chesterfield 4th of July parade last year when I took a picture of him with his grandson.  He said he was.  Ta da!  I had recently come across an e-mail address that I had written down on a box of lens cleaning tissue I kept in my camera bag.  I had wondered if that was the address that went along with those pictures.  Now I don’t have to wonder anymore.  I e-mailed the pictures to him tonight.


For those of you that have yet to pick up your tickets, they are now available locally at the following establishments:


Chesterfield General Store

The Creamery in Cummington

Dresser’s Mobil in Goshen

Goshen Firehouse

Goshen General Store

Plainfield Library

Meekins Library in Williamsburg

Williamsburg Pharmacy

Williamsburg General Store

Williamsburg Market

Corners Grocery in Worthington


You know summer is right around the corner when the Village Green in Williamsburg opens up for ice cream.  Only in New England will you find a soft serve ice cream shop that sells cones from a window opening when there’s still snow on the ground.


As for ticket sales, we’re now up to 725.  As was the case last year, I’ve received 10 picks from a person who put Highland Ambulance down on the ticket.  For those of you who don’t live locally, Highland is the local non-profit ambulance service that runs out of the Goshen Firehouse.  If their ticket comes closest to the actual time the block goes through the ice without going over, they’ll will 50% of the proceeds.  When I contacted Mike Rock the Director of the ambulance service to tell him what one of his supporters had done, Mike’s response was “I better start chipping.”


Not to be outdone, the same individual also submitted 10 tickets with the Hilltown Pantry’s name.  Heidi Nortonsmith, the Director of the Northampton Survival Center, was also pleasantly surprised when I let her know.




The weather this past week was pleasant for March.  This weekend brought us two beautiful spring days with temperatures in the low to mid 50’s.  As for the ice, its thickness is currently measured in feet rather than inches.  I have an 18” auger bit that I hauled out onto the ice this afternoon to help me quantify the mass of the ice sheet.  Counting the tip of the drill itself, I went down almost 20” and still couldn’t break through.  The calendar may show that spring is right around the corner but the ice on Hammond Pond is going to be sticking around for some time to come.


As of today, only 2 of the 725 tickets have passed their dates.  The bell curve of dates is clearly taking shape with the most popular dates being 4/14 and 4/15 with 38 picks each.  Following closely in 3rd place is 4/12 with 34 picks.  There’s a three-way tie for 4th place with 4/2, 4/10 and 4/18 with 33 picks each.


Not surprisingly, the most popular times are again 3:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. in that order.  See a pattern here?


Monday, March 9th, 2009


Last week started out in the deep freeze with nighttime temperatures in the single digits.  That was followed with a mid-week day of rain then sunny skies and weekend temperatures in the 50’s.  Mix it all together and you get puddles, potholes, frost heaves in the roads and a sunburn when skiing.



Remember in the last update when I mentioned that spring was right around the corner?  Well, in the Hilltowns, we celebrate 5 seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter, and mud.  Mud season was officially declared a few days ago in Goshen.  Mud season is a very special time for us locals.  It’s the reason many of us have at least one 4-wheel drive vehicle.  It typically arrives between late winter and early spring and is characterized by ruts in the dirt roads a good number of us live on.  It’s caused when the frost that settled deep in the ground beneath a road starts to thaw because of warm air temperatures.  The frozen earth melts at the surface but the water in the soil has nowhere to go.  To make matters worse, on days like today when Goshen received another 3 inches of snow, the Town’s plows have to stay off the dirt roads or risk destroying them with their blades.


Now that the snow is melting, the branches that came crashing to the ground in the December ice storm are slowly beginning to emerge.  They are serving as a reminder of the amount of work we have ahead of us.


Time to think happier thoughts…ticket sales are booming!


With 548 tickets now sold, the range of dates spans from February 28th to May 14th with April 2nd and 16th tied for the most picks with 26 each.  April 14th and 15th are close behind with 25 picks each.  The most popular times are 1:00PM and 3:00PM with 19 picks each.  The law of large numbers is starting to take shape and a familiar pattern from years past is now starting to emerge.


Tickets submissions have been received from my regulars in Florida, Nevada, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island not to mention a strong showing from the Massachusetts delegation.  A Ski Patrol colleague of mine was even able to sell some Meltdown tickets to a few business clients of his from Thailand and France.  Adding that to previous sales in Australia and India now categorizes us as a world-class endeavor.



The iceberg that is visible just under the surface of the water in this week’s picture measures over a foot thick.  Even though the air temperatures are warming up, the ice is still securely locked in from shore to shore.  The view in the picture is from the spillway of the lake where the water doesn’t freeze because it’s moving.  Slowly but surely, this opening will make it’s way to the block and will race the melting ice that starts at the northern part of the lake and works it’s way to the dam.



For those of you still waiting on the sidelines, let me see if I can help you with some suggested dates and times for your picks:


03/21 at 11:15AM     -           Official start of the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Road Race

03/22 at 12:00PM     -           Official start of the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade

04/06 at 2:05PM       -           First pitch at Opening Day at Fenway Park

04/15 at 2:45AM       -           Date and time the Titanic sank in 1912

04/16 at 1:05PM       -           First pitch at Opening Day at Yankee Stadium


Got any other good ones you’d like me to share?  Just let me know.


To be fair to people that have already submitted their choices, ticket sales will accepted only until April 1st. 


Monday, March 2nd, 2009


What do you do when faced with a foot of fresh snow, strong northerly winds, and a day off from school? 


You make snow angels, of course.  That’s just what my 7-year-old daughter Hannah and I did yesterday while checking on the block.



Folklore tells us that when March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.  Storms on Sunday and Monday which dumped around a foot of snow combined with forecasted record setting cold temperatures over the next few days certainly qualify the beginning of the month as being harsh.

Last Friday’s rain and 50 degree temperatures melted the snow that had been covering the pond.  Freezing temperatures over the weekend converted the surface water into ice which resulted in the pond becoming a giant skating rink.  What I refer to as ‘lake effect winds’ coming in from the north were so strong yesterday that it blew away the snow from the southern facing base of the block.  What’s odd about this is that the pallet which the block sits on was now visible through the ice since it is now completely encased in it.


Daylight savings arrives at 2 a.m. this coming Sunday.  Those of us in the fire service like to remind people to replace the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Others like to think of this day as the beginning of ‘summer time’.

Regardless of the current weather conditions, there are powerful forces in nature that simply can’t be ignored.  Meteorological Spring, otherwise known as the vernal equinox, is a mere 3 weeks away on March 20th.  Whether you’re a fan of the grapefruit or cactus leagues, spring training for major league baseball has begun in earnest.  Walking by Edward’s Church in Northampton Sunday night, I noticed what I believed to be a lone daffodil working its way out of the soil.  Can the sound of lawn mowers be far behind?

The forecasted average high temperature over the next ten days does not break the freezing mark.  Low temperatures over the next several days are expected to drop down into the single digits and will lead many of us to throw an extra log on the fire.  With the sun slowly creeping higher in the sky, the snow pack which resulted from yesterday’s storm won’t be around for too much longer.

Keep in mind that ticket sales end on Wednesday, April 1st.


Monday, February 23rd, 2009


It appears that our charge towards spring has experienced a minor setback.  On Sunday, Goshen received approximately 6” of the best snowman making snow one could ask for.  As you can see from this week’s picture, it was the kind of snow that sticks to the trees and makes everything it touches turn white.  As is common with many nor’easters, the wind that followed the storm today blew most of the snow to the ground.



Like the wind, ticket sales have been brisk over the past week.  The count currently stands at 208 plus an additional $35 of straight donations.  The bell curve is starting to form when looking at all the selections.  To date, the earliest pick is for this February 28th (this Sunday) at 7AM while the latest pick is for May 11th.  The most popular dates are 4/8, 4/9, 4/14 and 4/18.


A warming trend is being forecasted with rain and temperatures in the 40’s on Friday.  Daytime temperatures are still hovering in the upper teens to low twenties.  It won’t be long before the sap starts flowing in the Sugar Maple trees.


So far, I’ve visited with the Selectboards in Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Williamsburg, Westhampton, and Worthington to promote the contest.  These are 6 of the 7 towns whose residents benefit from the Hilltown Pantry.  I’ll be visiting Plainfield this week.  They only meet every two weeks.  Some of the Selectboard members are already Meltdown supporters so there’s not much arm-twisting that needs to be done.  Others have never heard of the Meltdown and ask questions like ‘How do you get the block out of the water in the spring?’ and ‘How do you know when it goes through?’  I am taking advantage of the good suggestions they’ve provided on getting the word out and appreciate their good wishes.


Anyone out there have contacts with the local television or radio stations?  In my efforts to promote the contest to the widest audience possible, I’d like to get the story in front of them in the hopes that it generates enough interest that they’ll come up and visit Goshen.  Any and all suggestions or contacts would be greatly appreciated.


Until next time…THINK SPRING.




P.S.  For those of you that are new to the contest, the block is tied to a rope so when it falls through the ice, I just haul on the other end and drag it out.  As for the time it goes through, the rope is tied to the cord of an electric clock.  When the block goes through the ice, the pressure on the rope yanks the cord out of the socket and stops the clock.  The process is pretty simple when you come to think of it.  Thank goodness my Dad had an old electric analog clock that still worked.


Sunday, February 15th, 2009

The 2009 Meltdown has begun.


For some of you, this is the first time you’ve heard from me since April 17th of last year - the day after the concrete block fell through ending the 2008 Meltdown.  Fast forward 10 months and you’ll find this year’s contest in full swing.  The rules remain the same – come closest to guessing the exact time and day that a 69-pound concrete block falls through the ice (without going over) and you’ll win half of all the proceeds.


This year’s beneficiary is the Hilltown Pantry.  The Hilltown Pantry is part of the Northampton Survival Center and provides low-income residents of Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington with a nutritionally balanced food box once a month.  Clearly, we live in uncertain economic times.  I can’t think of a better time to help support the work done by this local agency to help local people.


Unusually cold temperatures caused the ice to form early on Hammond Pond this winter.  By early December, one could walk across the lake without much concern.  Last December 12th, the region was hit with a devastating ice storm that brought trees crashing down on roadways, houses and utility lines and left many people without power for days.  Several snowstorms then blanketed the area with white and a ‘snow turning to sleet and freezing rain’ storm in January left a crust of ice on everything.


Last Sunday night while driving home after a day of skiing, I started thinking of what I would say in my inaugural e-mail update.  The full moon which lit up the evening sky was an open invitation to take this picture of the block.


This 30-second time exposure was taken at 7PM on Sunday, February 8th.


Through the magic of photography, this 30-second time exposure turned nighttime into daytime. 


As Paul Harvey used to say, ‘now for the rest of the story’…


My first thought was to get a close up of the block so I mounted my camera onto my tripod and marched out onto the lake.  With flashlight in hand, I followed a path made by snowmobiles to get me over the roadside snow bank.  I needed to get closer to the flag so I ventured off the beaten path.  The first few steps went fine then, crunch, I broke through crust on top of the snow.  No big deal, I thought.  Then I took a few more steps, (crunch, crunch) with the same result.  It was only after a half dozen more steps that I sensed something just wasn’t right.  The light from my flashlight revealed that the holes I was making with my footsteps were filling with water.  In an instant, a sinking feeling started to come over me.  How thick was the ice that was being insulated by the 8” of snow covering it?  If I fell through, how long would it take for anyone to find me?  Would I be featured on the front page of the Gazette?  Would this be the final Meltdown?


Adrenaline, a rapid heartbeat, and a shove from my guardian angel got my butt safely back to shore.


According to the old Farmer’s Almanac, this winter will be colder than normal primarily due to the persistent cold temperatures experienced throughout December.  Other cold periods will occur in early and mid-February and early March.  Precipitation will be near or slightly above normal with above-normal snowfall in our region.  They predict the biggest snowstorm to occur in early March and suggest that April and May will be warmer than normal with especially warm temperatures in late April.


The 10-day forecast calls for daytime temperatures remaining below the freezing mark and nighttime temperatures in the teens.  While it doesn’t sound like much of a meltdown, compare that to below zero temperatures from a few weeks ago and you’ll begin to understand.

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Day One of the 2009 Meltdown was greeted with an 8" snowfall that blanketed Hammond Pond in Goshen.

2009 Meltdown - Day One