Waterfront: March 2006

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The dog days of summer have a special meaning for canine enthusiasts in Iowa City, Iowa — and for the maintenance crew in charge of closing up the City Park Pool for the season.

For the third year in a row, the Johnson County Dog Park Action Committee (DogPAC) hosted the Iowa City Dog Paddle at the city's outdoor pool. The two-day fundraising event was held just after the pool closed to humans for the 2005 season.

"We closed on Labor Day, and we turned off all the chemicals," says Mindy Cheap, program supervisor for aquatics. "They lowered the water down below the gutters so hair and stuff wouldn't get into the filters, we had all that turned off."

Mike Moran, the city's recreation director, worked with DogPAC to arrange for use of the city facility. "Johnson County DogPAC comes in and runs the event, they do the registration and make sure the dogs are vaccinated, and basically we just provide the facility and one staff person to make sure everything goes all right," he says.

By all accounts, the event was a great success. Moran says there were about 825 dogs in attendance, up from about 400 the first year. Dogs of all sizes — and their people — enjoyed jumping, swimming and splashing in the 750,000gallon pool. Some dogs even took to the diving board. "We waived the 'no running' rule for this," says Cheap.

After two days of fun, crews came in to close up the pool for the season. Says Moran, "By the end of the second day the water was getting pretty funky."

"We finished draining the pool and right away came in with power washers to make sure they got all the dog hair off," says Cheap. Because the water level had been lowered, the "dog water" didn't run through the filter, so no one had to figure out how to backwash the dog hair out of it. "It didn't even come into play," says Cheap.

"It's a good project for everyone," says Moran. "We don't charge them anything for the use of the pool, so all that money goes toward the opening of the dog park. We've got land now, they've secured loans from the city to build the park, and we're going to fence and probably open in the spring of 2006."

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's A . . . Hot Tub?

Air deliveries turn installations into spectacle.

When a customer buys a hot tub, delivery isn't supposed to be difficult. Unfortunately, it was not so easy for one family in the U.K. and another in Corona, Calif. As reported in the online version of The Sun, a British newspaper, Michele Varley anxiously awaited the arrival of a brand-new 10-person spa last November at her home in Sunderland, in North East England. The heavy spa was too much for the 120-ton crane, though, and as the spa was hoisted, the crane tipped over and cut the house in two. Luckily, no one was injured in the crash, as husband Paul Varley and the couple's three children were not at home when the accident happened. Even the family rabbit survived after its hutch was flattened in the backyard. Twenty nearby homes were evacuated, though, as the hot tub crash did sever a gas main. Faring much better, but also awaiting a hot tub delivery from the sky, were Randall and Joyce Nicola of Corona, Calif. At a cost of $2,300, a helicopter pilot had to airlift the couple's new 1,100-pound spa into their backyard and take out the old one; but the old spa, at 1,400 pounds, was too heavy to be hoisted out of place, and had to be cut up by hand for removal. Neighbors were evacuated from the hilly neighborhood and workers wore hard hats and carried fire extinguishers for the potentially dangerous operation. Neighbor Dan Hackney rearranged his work schedule so he could witness the airlift. "I was worried about the wind," he says. "The FAA guy said it's better when it's windy. Maybe he was trying to make me feel better."

Happy Hour

A different kind of hot tub.

There's a new way to warm up with this bubbly Hot Tub. It's a cocktail created by Adriana DeStefano, co-owner of the Caffe Paradiso, in Boston. The bubbly drink is a mixture of Absolut vodka, Grand Marnier, Chambord and champagne.

The drink has been very popular on cold winter days and nights. "People love it because it makes you warm as you drink it," says DeStefano. Servers at the cafe concur. "It looks so beautiful and tastes so good," said waitress Sarah Lamothe to the Lowell Sun. "It's my favorite drink to recommend to people." DeStefano takes pride in the Hot Tub, but it is by no means her only delicious concoction. Over Christmas last year, she created an eggnog martini as well, made with vanilla vodka, Tuaca, which is an Italian liqueur, champagne and eggnog. "That one you have to stir, not shake," she says. "Or it will explode all over you." We'll stick with the Hot Tub.

Island Lover's Delight

Polynesian party in pickup.

For many in the pool and spa industry, their truck is like a second home. Now, for a mere $90,000 you could bring home luxury into the bed of your truck — if only you didn't need all that room for tools and chemicals.

Beau Boeckmann, vice president and chief designer at Galpin Motors of Los Angeles, has transformed a Ford F-250 pick-up into an exotic Polynesian retreat on wheels — complete with a giant tiki-head waterfall flowing into a hot tub surrounded by a teakwood deck in the rear cargo bed.

It took six months and hundreds of man-hours to create the mobile luau, which also has a custom rear end that encloses a portable propane barbecue, a margarita machine and an ice chest, all powered by a hidden generator.

"We wanted to create something completely out of the ordinary," says Boeckmann. "Something so outrageous and so extreme, that it would stop traffic, even in L.A." 

Fish House Fun

Shanty parade lures small-town shoppers.

We've all seen images of shoppers rushing the doors of big-box stores to grab the early-bird specials the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday. But smalltown shopping districts aren't always as bustling. To draw customers to its downtown the day after Thanksgiving, the retailers of Aitkin, Minn., population 2,000, started the Fish House Parade 15 years ago.

All it takes to get a float in the parade is creativity and an idea that ties into the fish-house theme. (Ice fishers use fish houses, also known as shanties, to stay warm as they dip their lines past frozen water.) "A lot of people will decorate their fish house, and others will just bring in their fish house and then decorate behind it or in front of it," says Carroll Kukowski, executive director of the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce.

With temperatures often below freezing at this time year in Minnesota, it's really no surprise that one of the 50 entries in the 2005 parade featured a hot tub. Contractor Dana Gross of Aitkin used his pickup to pull a long trailer topped with a large, new fish house and a hot tub filled with plenty of 104-degree water and three women in swimsuits, including his wife, Pam. "When they got to the judges stand," says Kukowski, "Dana, who had been sitting in his snowsuit with his hat and boots on, pretending to fish, stripped off his coveralls and everything and jumped into the tub with the ladies."

The annual parade has been a boon to Aitkin retailers, attracting as many as 6,000 spectators in recent years. It's also now part of a daylong series of events, with stores open into the evening.

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