Youngsters dig through snow for prizes at 97th annual Hatchet Hunt

  • Kacie Piragis, of Athol,  holds the coveted George Washington hatchet at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol. STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Chloe Mallett, of Athol, searches through the snow at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • The bonfire providing some warmth at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Camden Destefano, of Athol, searching for prize cards at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Bree May, left, and Julia Blanchard enjoy the concessions at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol. STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Aiden Jack turns in a prize card at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Kaden Vorce holding the coveted Robert Shepardson hatchet at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol. STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Troy Pearson searches for prize cards at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Lillian Dupont holds her prize card at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Participants searching for prize cards at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol. STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • The concessions area at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt, Monday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2019 12:59:04 PM
Modified: 2/18/2019 12:59:06 PM

ATHOL – With a  fresh coat of powdery snow adding to the difficulty, area youngsters forged into the woods looking for prizes at the 97th annual George Washington Hatchet Hunt on Monday morning.

The youthful participants overturned logs, investigated stumps thoroughly and dug deep into the snow to find the highly coveted prize cards.

Jason and Laura Robinson have organized the celebration of Presidents Day event since 2011.

“It was named after the old story of the cherry tree and the hatchet,” Laura Robinson said. “It’s a fun time for everyone to go out and work together. The overall message is to be kind and have fun.” 

Friends paired up to cover more ground, and older generations of children would help their younger siblings search through the woods surrounding Athol Community Elementary School. 

“We have a lot of kids that will team up to find prizes together,” Laura Robinson said. “The older kids have been here and found stuff. Now it’s time to pass it on and help the little guys.”

Persistence and determination was important as the prize cards were hidden with extreme care.  

The lucky children could then turn in the prize card for donated games, toys and even bicycles. Over 100 children were combing the woods with parents and friends.   

Nick’s Restaurant and Hannaford Supermarket provided hot cocoa and hot dogs for the event.

There was a giant bonfire to keep everyone warm, tended to by the Athol Fire Department.  

“Everyone knows pretty much everyone here,” Laura Robinson said. “We love the smallness  of the community.”

The George Washington Hatchet Hunt was the creation of longtime Athol YMCA general secretary Alexander “Johnnie” Johnstone in 1922.

Johnstone, inspired by Washington’s legendary “I cannot tell a lie” when confronted about chopping down a cherry tree with a hatchet, wanted to instill on area youth the integrity and honesty of the founding father of our country.

Three most coveted prizes are the George Washington, the Johnnie Johnstone and the Lt. Robert Shepardson AFD hatchets.

Kaden Vorce of Orange (Shepardson), Kacie Piragis (Washington) of Athol and Maggie Ringer (Johnstone) of Orange found the prize cards linked to the hatchets. 

The Robinsons are already thinking about planning for the Hatchet Hunt’s 100th anniversary in 2022. 


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