Happy birthday, dear Claire d'Loon
MERCER, Wis. — A steady downpour didn’t dampen many spirits in Mercer Saturday morning as residents came out to celebrate Claire d’Loon’s a-May-zing Birthday Bash.
Many residents braved pouring rain at the Mercer Chamber of Commerce Saturday morning to kick off the day’s events celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the town’s loon statue being built on May 22, 1981. “If you were a loon, this would be a perfect day for you,” said chamber president Vic Ouimette during a ceremony in front of the statue.
A wreath of flowers was placed around Claire’s neck and spectators sang “Happy Birthday” led by Marty Koleno before gathering for photos around a plastic birthday cake.
The celebration, planned by a volunteer committee of members of the Mercer Lioness Club, Mercer Chamber of Commerce and Mercer Area Historical Society, included other activities to get participants in the birthday spirit.
A parade was planned to follow the wreathing, but event organizers called it off due to the weather. It would have featured floats and other entries including the Mercer School band and the Tigerettes dance group, according to Colleen Flanagan, who had the original idea to celebrate Claire’s birthday. Flanagan is a member of the chamber board and the Lioness Club.
The birthday bash was held in conjunction with the Lioness Club’s spring tea and fashion show. After holding a successful fashion show in the fall, the club wanted to hold another one, according to member Deanna Pierpont. The show features clothing from Flanagan’s store, Aunt Esther’s Attic in Mercer. Fifteen models of varying ages showed styles while attendees enjoyed a luncheon of “wonderful” salads, Flanagan said. “Some of the Lioness are restaurant owners … also our Lioness are excellent cooks, so they have wonderful salads,” she said.
During the event, Kelly Kohegyi donned a Claire d’Loon costume and received birthday gifts from “the Duck and Duchess of Loon Town,” played by Mercer first graders Victor Kiedrowski and Savannah Barton, and “the Grand Countess Flambeau of Loon Town,” played by Shirley Thomas. Claire was also inducted as an honorary member of the Lioness Club by president Betty Meinholz.
Claire then visited the Mercer Public Library, where a traditional children’s birthday party was held for Mercer’s youngsters. Attendees played Pin the Eye on the Loon and musical chairs and enjoyed hot dogs and birthday cake.
Other birthday activities included a two-hour loon presentation by area naturalist Zach Wilson.
Flanagan said she came up with the idea when thinking of possible events between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. After Tina Brunell, executive director of the Mercer chamber, told Flanagan about Claire’s birthday and that it hadn’t been celebrated, the idea was born, Flanagan said.
Flanagan said the community support for the celebration has been “fabulous. I had a vision of having the whole community involved and it happened,” she said. Help came from the organizers, from local veterans groups, community members and even Mercer’s kindergarten through fourth grade students, who made birthday cards that lined the walls of the community center.
“We have 12 businesses that donated wonderful raffles” for the salad luncheon and fashion show, Flanagan said. She added that the Mercer Area Historical Society provided a display of newspaper clippings and old photos leading up to Claire’s “hatching.”
Ouimette agreed that the community response for the celebration was great. “It’s been fantastic,” he said. “Everybody’s been really excited and really looking forward to it. Despite the rain, we still had fun. Next year it’ll be bigger and better.”
Claire d’Loon is just over 16 feet tall and weighs about 2,000 pounds. She cost about $10,000 to have built and was set up in Mercer on May 22, 1981.
“Mercer has one of the larger concentrations of loons in the country, and it kind of became a mascot, if you will, of the Mercer community and the chamber,” Ouimette said. She was named shortly after being built after area residents suggested different names for her.
Saturday’s celebration was the first official birthday party for Claire.