Holley FD may change name of Slam to Squirrel Hunt

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 February 2014 at 12:00 am

Department says it receives overwhelming support for event

Photos by Tom Rivers – A big crowd of hunters and supporters of the Holley Fire Department gathered for food, a raffle and the results of today’s Squirrel Slam fund-raiser, a hunting contest with prizes for the heaviest squirrels shot.

HOLLEY – The Squirrel Slam will likely continue next year, but it may have a new name: “The Squirrel Hunt.”

Holley Fire Department officials said the name for the hunting contest – Squirrel Slam – may feed some of the controversy and protests for the event.

“We might change the name,” said Fran Gaylord, Holley FD president. “That might help with the PR.”

Gaylord said the department feels much more support for holding the hunting contest than criticism. The participation level jumped from about 250 two years ago to 950 last year, when the event was first targeted by protestors from Friends of Animals.

The crowd was too big to fit in the fire hall last year for a post-hunt meal, raffles and prizes. This year the department capped it at 650 and it quickly sold out without any advertisement.

“There has been some backlash, but we’ve had a lot of members of our community who are very supportive,” said Fire Chief Peter Hendrickson.

A year ago Holley Fire Department leaders didn’t know what to expect after the Squirrel Slam was put in the bull’s eye of protestors. The department was told 3,000 protestors could be in town for the Squirrel Slam.

Hendrickson received 4,500 emails urging him to cancel the squirrel hunting contest. He received many anonymous threats, he said.

The contest became a media spectacle, drawing national and international attention. Friends of Animals did show, about 20 of them a year ago.

Gaylord said the department isn’t ruffled by all the media attention or the protestors.

“We work well under stress,” he said.

He walked out of the fire hall to size up the protestors, and shrugged his shoulders.

The Holley Fire Department sells tickets for a gun and other prizes inside the fire hall this evening.

“What is there, 8 or 9 protestors?” he said.

Friends of Animals made a late push to attend today’s Squirrel Slam. The group wasn’t sure it was even happening. The Fire Department didn’t advertise it on its web site, with flyers or advertisements. Instead, it spread by word of mouth and was a sell-out with 650 tickets.

“We didn’t want to engage with them this year,” Hendrickson said about the protestors. “We appreciate their position and their protest. It’s their right.”

The department also doesn’t have a problem with supporting a hunting contest as a fund-raiser. Friends of Animals wants to make wildlife killing contests illegal in the state.

“We’re not trying to obstinate, or to (tick) anybody off,” Gaylord said. “We’re not trying to say we’re better than anybody. People have a right to hunt.”

About 200 of the ticket buyers for the Squirrel Slam didn’t participate in the hunting contest today, choosing to buy tickets in support of the department.

Last year, the department’s phone rang off the hook for a week leading up to the Squirrel Slam. Gaylord and Hendrickson said the department might have got 10 calls about the event in the past week.

The fire hall was filled with about 400 hunters after the contest. The event generates about $6,500 in revenue for the department, which clears about $4,000 after it pays for prizes, food and helps with the security costs for the event.

“We have no plans not to do it again next year,” Gaylord said. “Other fire departments have thanked us for standing our ground. Other departments have gun raffles.”