Pickles & prizes

Pickles & prizes

Image Credit: Submitted

Those driving through the Mohican area, including Loudonville and Perrysville, in early December may stumble upon a strange spectacle of hordes of people — children and adults alike — suddenly converging in an area and wandering in circles. It’s not a zombie outbreak or even symptoms of the latest COVID variant but something much stranger: pickle fever.

Thanks to a long-forgotten tradition and the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum in Loudonville, pickle fever has swept the community, and at any given moment, dozens — or in some instances hundreds — of people may suddenly rush to wherever the next clue suggests. The tradition harks back to the Victorian era when parents would hide a waxed or glass pickle in the tree on Christmas morning and present an extra gift to the first child to find it. That tradition was brought back to life several years ago at the museum’s private Christmas party for members.

According to the museum’s curator, Kenny Libben, he decided to hide several of the glass pickles in the museum’s decorations and exhibits and offer prizes to whomever found them.

“The first year it was off to a slow start, and everyone seemed confused, but once they saw some of the prizes that were donated by our board members including a Red Ryder BB gun, people started looking,” Libben said.

By the second year, it was the highlight of the party, with a line of people waiting for the doors to open.

“We have members in their 90s rushing around, just as eager as members in their 20s, looking for the pickles,” Libben said.

Though it’s the highlight of the private events, the pickle hunt went public last year when the pandemic forced the museum’s party to be canceled. “We had a lot of disappointed members when we told them the party couldn’t happen, so we saw this as an opportunity to open it to the public and invite everyone to participate,” Libben said.

The museum decided by hiding pickles throughout the community — including the surrounding state parks — everyone could still practice social distancing but also have something fun to do. To make it even more exciting, nearly two-dozen local businesses offered to donate prizes for those who found the pickles.

With clues posted each day on the museum’s Facebook page, hundreds of residents searched for the pickles and quickly asked for the event to become a new holiday tradition.

The 2021 edition of the Pickle Hunt kicked off recently with a few improvements. According to Libben, the pickles used last year were made of thin glass, and although none were broken, there was concern a child may squeeze it too hard and cut their hand, so Gorman Rupp Industries of Bellville stepped up and offered a high-tech upgrade to the centuries-old tradition.

GRI used its advanced 3-D printers, which it quickly builds and tests prototypes with, to print custom resin pickles for the museum. Each pickle was painstakingly printed layer by layer, each only half the thickness of a human hair and cured with lasers and submerged in resin before the next layer is added.

Libben thanked Josh Jamieson, a museum volunteer and senior project engineer at GRI, for his assistance. Once the pickles were finished, they were handed off to the Loudonville-Perrysville Art Club and hand painted, each with a unique look. Participating artists included Louis Donley, Tommy Haring, Hannah Nally, Grace Ringler, Hailey Spreng, Riley Spreng and advisor Lara Spreng.

The rules to participate are simple. Participants are encouraged to join the Facebook group, “The Pickle Hunt,” at www.facebook.com/groups/picklehunt, where clues and other information are posted each day. Once a pickle is hidden, the first clue will be posted to alert followers of the general vicinity it is located. Clues start out vague, but the longer it remains hidden, more clues will be posted to help narrow the search. Once a pickle is found, there are directions attached explaining how to claim their prize.

Each pickle is randomly assigned a prize package in advance so hunters are unaware which prize they are searching for each day, but there is no limit to the number of pickles a person can find.

According to the museum, this year’s prize packages range from $50-$200 in value and are comprised of items, gift cards or even cash. The museum is grateful for participating businesses sponsoring this year’s event, which includes Kick & Gilman LLC, U Rent US, Truly Inspired Paper Co., Lingenfelter Jewelers, Subway, Buzzard’s Family Shoe Store, Loudonville Farmers Equity Co., Raby Hardware, Four Seasons Flowers & Gifts, Drops of Essential Oils, LazyBugNails, Creative Outlet, Olde Town Barber Shop, TOF Apiaries, The Alabaster Mouse, Phase Two Pizza, Pleasant Hill Marina, Haudenschield Insurance, Canfield Family Farm, Cathy Lance and Landoll’s Mohican Castle.

In total, 13 pickles will be hidden up until Christmas. Those who find them will not only receive their prize package, but also get to keep each pickle as a unique souvenir.