Basically it is a charity event where you get a sponsorship to fit twenty people in a silly looking boat and race down the river to raise money for community charities. Business sponsor teams, employees sponsor their own, community groups, University organizations, Breast Cancer survivor groups. There were 42 boats sponsored, 840 people paddling, plus a good sized crowd of onlookers.
It has become a mini-festival.... bratwurst, music on the stage, funny costumes, coffee, face painting for the kids, Suzuki violins, folk singers, Okinawan Taiko drummers. Despite the chill there was a good crowd.
He looked to be about four and of African-American Heritage. His grandmother seemed more than just a bit older and of Anglo-European decent, if that really matters.
As he looked down into the water I admonished him to be careful, that there were big, mean fish down there that could jump up and bite him on his toes.
He looked at the river, at his grandmother and then at me.
"Huh," he said. His mouth was agape, his eyes grew wide and his grandmother laughed. "My daddy is racing," he said seriously, "and Grandpa, too!"
"And your uncle," his grandmother said.
"Uncle too!!!" Peyton said. The day grew a bit warmer.
After a bit I rose to get a hot chocolate.
"Peyton," I said," it was nice to meet you. Be careful of your toes. You need them all."
"Huh?", and his grandmother laughed.
"Do you know how many toes you have,Peyton?"
He scrutinized his shoes. "All of them," he said. The day got a bit sunnier.
It was a good morning....I am not sure who won the races.... but I am thinking everyone there did.
Later in the afternoon, of a curious bent, I went to the shores of Lake Winnebago to watch a Tea Party Rally. There were roughly the same amount of folks in attendance as there were paddlers from the morning gathering....except these were mostly seated in lawn chairs and carried signs instead of paddles. There was a pledge of allegiance, several invocations to God, and a badly sung National Anthem. One of the first speakers spoke of the need to get back to our "Judea-Christian" values, to get rid of the elitist Liberals and Democrats. One of the next speakers followed up and was even a little more specific about values.....his were "Protestant-Christian" values.... which rather left me out... as long with a bunch of Jews, Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists.
Sometimes it takes a little work to sort out the truly substantial from the inconsequential hubris of life. A beer can help.
Peyton..... I checked my toes when I got home. I had all of them, thank you very much.
*photos blatantly borrowed from the Oshkosh Northwestern.