Used by permission. Copyright GazetteNET.com
By Sean Reagan Staff Writer
GOSHEN - It's probably safe to say that the number of people watching ice melt on Hammond Pond is higher than usual this year.
In fact, more than 500 people have an investment in just when that ice turns to water.
No, there's no buried treasure under all that ice and snow and there hasn't been a sudden influx of meteorologists in town. It's just the Goshen Meltdown - a raffle to benefit the town's 225th anniversary, which arrives in July 2006.
Half the proceeds will go towards the anniversary celebration. The other half will go to the individual whose keen eye for New England's famously unpredictable winters comes closest to naming the date and time when the ice on Hammond Pond will melt.
Or maybe someone will just get lucky.
The contest is the brainchild of Robert Labrie, who in turn got the idea from Don Walker in West Danville, Vt., where a similar raffle has been held for the past 18 years.
''It just sounded like a great idea,'' said Labrie. ''I'm certainly having fun with it.''
In February, Labrie set a concrete block on a wooden pallet positioned in the ice on Hammond Pond. A rope was tied both to the block and to an electric clock that is plugged to outlet in the gatehouse on the dam. As temperatures rise, Labrie predicts that one of two things will happen.
The ice beneath the pallet could melt, causing the pallet to fall through the ice, or an ice floe might break away from the shore, causing the pallet to drift away. Either event will apply tension through the rope and disconnect the electric cord from its socket, thus stopping the clock.
Labrie has been sending frequent updates via email and keeps a link on the town's Web site at www.egoshen.com. He said he hasn't gotten around to a Web cam quite yet ''but we'll get there.''
''What I enjoy the most are the comments I get back from people after they get the updates,'' said Labrie. ''They're getting caught up in it.''
At least one pick has been made for each day leading up to May 2. The most popular date so far is April 15 - tax day - with 28 votes, narrowly edging out April 10, which has 27.
By a wide margin, ticket purchasers prefer the afternoon to morning. Three p.m., with some 46 votes, leads 2 p.m. which has 24. The winner will be the person who comes closest to the precise time the clock stops.
Labrie isn't saying when he thinks the ice will melt, although he's invested as well. All he'll say is that ice tends to melt from north to south and that the clock will likely stop at some point in April. Beyond that, he's referring people to the Farmer's Almanac.
Labrie and his family have lived in Goshen for 15 years, and he's been an inveterate ice watcher every winter since his arrival. ''It's something I've typically watched and monitored,'' he said.
Labrie said that there's been a recent surge in ticket sales, and he expects that will continue right up through Thursday's deadline. After that, the lucky ones will camp out and start a countdown. The others will just have to wait for next year.
In the meantime, Labrie is not the only one having fun - or showing a little creativity in picking dates and times. His favorite prediction to date? The one calling for the ice to melt on April 11 at precisely 3:05 p.m., the very minute that the first pitch is scheduled to be thrown at the Red Sox home opener at Fenway Park.
Tickets for the meltdown are available at the Goshen Transfer Station, the Goshen Town Hall, the Goshen General Store, the Florence Barbershop, online at the Goshen Web site or by calling Labrie at 268-7110.