By APRIL DIODATO OBSERVER Staff Writer
FORESTVILLE - When the temperatures drop and life in Chautauqua County seems to slow to a crawl, Bob and Madelyn Bradigan have made it their mission to provide some old-fashioned family winter fun.
For three years now, the Bradigans have organized a community sledding party near their home on a spacious property (owned by Bob's cousin, Donnie Bradigan) with a sizeable hill at 1952 Laona Road in Forestville. Bob said attendance increased sharply this year, up to more than 120 from about 60 the previous year. Participants in the sledding party, held from 1 to 4 p.m. ranged in age from 2 to 85 and came from all over the county, as far away as Jamestown.
OBSERVER Photos by April Diodato
Sledders young and old came to the community sled party in Forestville on Sunday.
"We just wanted to do something in the winter time for people that was like the old days," Bob said as he grilled some hot dogs. "A family event involving the kids, where they could bring their coasters and tobaggans and whatever else. We have seven or eight volunteers - friends of mine - with snowmobiles to haul them back up the hill."
"They love riding the snowmobiles in the first place and not having to walk up the hill - that was the hard part when I was a kid!" Sunset Drifter Cindy Stiles said. "The kids have been looking forward to this for weeks. Snowmobilers get a bad rap but we're not all going nuts and speeding around the county ... We do it for family fun, enjoyment and we follow all the rules."
The Sunset Drifters snowmobile club of Silver Creek, of which the Bradigans are members, sponsored the event and allowed it to be covered by the snowmobile insurance. Preparations of the site began a week before, with Bob and Larry Stiles digging out the area and putting up a snow fence to ensure safety for sledders.
The Bradigans were better able to get the word out about the party by posting the event on Facebook.
"We've had tons!" Madelyn said. "The kids were just having a ball."
While there was certainly plenty of snow, the light, fluffy powder didn't provide the best conditions for sledding, Madelyn said, but the children didn't seem to mind. Youngsters, some accompanied by their parents, slid down and shared in laughter despite the cold.
Those taking a break from sledding warmed up with Bob's homemade chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate and cider, with hot dogs, chips and more to snack on.
At around 3 p.m., a State Trooper stopped by to issue a warning about the many cars parked along the road. Bob said the officer was going to return after 4 p.m. and remaining cars would be given parking tickets. It was the first year the sledding party had complaints about parking.
"People are complaining where we weren't really hurting anyone," Dean Salzman of Forestville, Cherry Creek snowmobile club member, said. "The police officer had to do his job but it just seems like the neighbors in the community should be happy that the kids have something to do. ... This is nice! It's fun for the kids."
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