Ice Melt Barrel splashes down March 5

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By Vicky Gits

The third annual Evergreen Ice Melt Barrel descended into the chilling waters of Evergreen Lake on March 5 at 2:13:24 p.m., a full month earlier than last year, according to Ice Melt officials.

The winner of the contest to predict the day on which the 55-gallon drum gets dunked has yet to be announced.

But there are probably only about a dozen people who submitted guesses this early in the season, said Jerry Lautigar, president of Mountain/Foothills Rotary.

This year the Rotary Club learned that it probably wasn’t a good idea to drill holes in the barrel in order to attach the device that registers the sinking moment.

“It is not supposed to sink,” Lautigar said of the barrel. “But it looks like water was seeping through the holes.”

Next year the club will use a new barrel and will weld a handle or hook on it so the rescue team can just haul it in.

On Monday, a team from Evergreen Fire/Rescue discovered it’s not a simple matter to retrieve a steel drum full of 300 pounds of water.

Two firefighter-divers, Jeff Ashford and Peter Reuth, had to don dry suits, crawl out onto the ice on all fours, chip away at the ice and then try to circle the barrel with a wet strap in freezing-cold water. It took three tries to harness the bulky behemoth, which was submerged in water at least 6 feet deep.

Compared to last year, the barrel came down unusually early. In 2008 it fell on April 6 at 12:31 p.m., and in 2007 on March 25 around 2 p.m. The barrel goes into position Jan. 1.

“It’s a combination of things,” said Bill Downes of the Rotary Club’s Ice Melt committee. “In addition to the warm weather, the warm wind sucked the moisture out of the lake. The sun heated up the west end of the barrel, and it fell in first.

“Despite the difficulty, Evergreen Fire/Rescue said it was great practice,” Downes said.

Sixty percent of the proceeds goes to the Evergreen Park and Recreation Special Needs Program, and 20 percent each goes to Drive Smart and the Rotary Foundation. Rotary sold 700 to 800 tickets this year. Last year’s event raised about $2,500.