Athol Area YMCA cannot tell a lie: George Washington Hatchet Hunt on Monday

  • Children begin to scour the land for prize cards during last year’s George Washington Hatchet Hunt. This year's event, the 95th installment, is set for 9 to 11 a.m. on Monday, Presidents Day. Submitted photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/17/2017 10:12:59 PM

ATHOL — Local children will celebrate Presidents Day with an event named after the first American commander-in-chief.

The 95th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt is slated to begin at 9 a.m. Monday in the woods between Athol-Royalston Middle School and Athol Community Elementary School. Youngsters will scour the terrain to find prize cards that will be turned in for prizes donated by local businesses. The event is sponsored by the Athol Area YMCA and the Athol Fire Department.

According to the Y, the three coveted prizes are the George Washington, the Johnnie Johnstone and the Lt. Robert Shepardson AFD hatchets. Other prizes include bicycles, outdoor gear, sporting goods, dolls and games. Hatchet winners also receive a one-year youth membership to the Athol Area YMCA.

Children from preschool through age 14 are invited to participate and there is a special hunt area for the preschoolers so they won’t have to search through snow taller than they are. Everyone is encouraged to dress appropriately. A bonfire is also planned.

Johnnie Johnstone, a director of the YMCA for more than 50 years, founded the first Hatchet Hunt, which has been held annually since 1922. According to the YMCA, Johnstone started the event to help instill the values of honesty and integrity that George Washington embodied.

A hatchet is symbolically significant to a myth about the country’s first president. A legend persists that, as a 6-year-old boy, Washington received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree with it. The story goes that his father angrily confronted him, resulting in the future military hero confessing, “I cannot tell a lie … I did cut it with my hatchet.” This led to Washington’s father to proclaim his son’s honesty was worth more than 1,000 trees.

Washington’s name is so synonymous with this myth that George Washington University has an independent student newspaper call The GW Hatchet.

Jason and Laura Robinson are coordinating the hunt this year. They have been gathering prizes during the past few months in anticipation of a big crowd on Monday.

Athol Fire Chief John Duguay will use his GPS unit so anything hidden can be found. According to information from the YMCA, Hannaford will donate hot dogs, chips and condiments and the Lions Club will provide the food cart to cook the grub.

Prize donations are still being accepted and can be brought to the YMCA or the Athol Fire Station.

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