Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — HOLLEY — A fire department fundraiser that has largely gone unnoticed for six years — even within limits of the Village of Holley, just east of Albion — was a rowdy affair Saturday.
The “Hazzard County Squirrel Slam” drew a record-number of tickets sold and a large crowd of protesting animal advocates, hunters and bemused villagers outside of the Holley Hotel.
The Squirrel Slam operates much like a summertime fishing derby, but with red and gray squirrels instead of carp and catfish as the target. Participating hunters paid $10 to compete for prizes for bringing in the largest squirrel or heaviest group of no more than five squirrels, and a spot at a dinner and gun raffle.
All 1,000 tickets sold out, 400 more than last year, a major boost for the fire department, which uses proceeds from the Squirrel Slam to purchase equipment not covered under its budget. Although some tickets were purchased by non-hunters, hundreds turned up at judging time carrying squirrels through the crowd.
Event Chairperson Tina Reed said the local response was widely positive.
“We’ve had a lot of support ... in our community this is what people do,” Reed, a longtime member of the fire department’s board, said.
While hunters took to the fields and wooded areas outside of the village, opponents of the event massed in Holley’s public square to rail against what they decried as a killing contest.
“Cash and guns for dead squirrels,” New York Friends of Animals Director Edita Birnkrandt called out, with “Shame on Holley, New York,” coming from her compatriots.
In recent weeks groups like Friends of Animals, Animal Advocates of Western New York and Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York had tried to prevent the event from happening. A group even offered to hold an fundraising drive if it was cancelled. The proposal wasn’t accepted by the village, but it spawned a deluge of attention on social media and condemnation from across the country.