By Barry Gwinn
For the past nineteen years, Elaine Ritchie, has raised a lot of money for AVOW Hospice through the Goodland Boat Parade. She stages it every February and somehow gets the whole town of Goodland to pitch in. The parade starts at the Stan Gober Bridge, winds its way through the bay behind our restaurants, and ends at the Goodland Boat Park at the southern end of Goodland. Crowds come from all over to revel in the festivities, and to support the parade. The water’s edge is lined with spectators.
When the parade pulls in to the Goodland Boat Park, the judges, headed by County Commissioner, Donna Fiala, make their decision as to who wins what and award prizes accordingly. In past years, some of the crowd never made its way to the Boat Park. They felt that the excitement was over in the business section of Goodland. Not this year!
This year, Ritchie gave Greg Fowler a call. Greg is the head coach of the Marco Island Academy (MIA) football team. She explained to Coach Fowler that a dunk tank was being brought to the boat park and could the coach bring down some of his players to participate. Fowler could. He got the point immediately. [/caption] alignright” src=”http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/B10-CBN-4-3-15-12.gif” alt=”B10-CBN-4-3-15-12″ width=”200″ height=”238″ />
Fowler had been installed as MIA head football coach shortly before the 2014 fall football season. He injected new life into the football program and felt that his players should also become visible and represent their school in other aspects of community life. As well as scoring some significant wins on the football field, the MIA team started sending volunteers to help out with community activities on the island. They have unloaded food and packed probably thousands of meals for Meals of Hope. They have assisted and helped to keep order in the Marco Island Dog Parade, and helped with the logistics in the Christmas, Island Style Parade in December. This was right down Fowler’s alley.
On the afternoon, of Saturday, February 21st, Coach Fowler showed up with 12 of his football players wearing their game jerseys. Also in tow were Assistant Coaches, Davis, Headley and Schneider. Fowler’s and Davis’ kids came along to get in their licks. It is worth noting that four members of the MIA football team live in Goodland.
Ritchie had cleverly placed the dunk tank right next to the hotdog stand. For the past eight years, Jared Kelley and Sandy Bryson had cooked and sold hotdogs here, with proceeds going to AVOW Hospice. The Little Bar Restaurant provides the hotdogs, buns, and chips.There were always a lot of hotdogs left over after the event was over. The MIA players and coaches saw to it that this sad legacy was ended, and, for the first time, Jared and Sandy sold out. When a burly football player, sporting number 50 (offensive line) bought two hotdogs, he explained that he didn’t get the number 50 by only eating one hotdog.
When they weren’t eating or mixing with the crowd the MIA players and coaches kids, gleefully ponied up (3 shots for $5, then $1 per shot) for a chance to dump their coaches into the frigid waters of the dunk tank. Whoops, cheers, and splashes (big splashes-really big splashes) accompanied each successful dunking. Being athletes the boys scored a lot of hits. The coaches’ kids tried other means to dampen their dads.
The kids and coaching staff ate and laughed their way into our hearts. They were unfailingly polite and respectful, giving a good account of themselves as representatives of MIA. I hope they return next year. As long as Coach Fowler is there, I am betting they’ll be back.
Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association