Goat on a Boat in Sister Bay

Would you believe me if I told you there’s a goat on a boat in Sister Bay? 

It’s true! But don’t worry – it’s not a live goat.

The three-foot-tall, blue, wooden goat on a boat is hanging out at the Sister Bay Marina near the A-dock. Louise Howson, Sister Bay Advancement Association coordinator, even drove me out to see it in person.

The goat is part of Sister Bay’s 82nd annual Ice Out Contest, in which visitors and locals guess the date and time when the ice in the bay will melt or “go out.” Participants may cast their ballots at 17 local businesses, each offering its own prize; and they may vote as often as they want at as many businesses as they want, so they have the chance of winning multiple prizes.

Winners from each business are then entered in a grand-prize drawing, in which one name will be drawn to receive the grand prize of $100 in cash.

The contest is also being held at Gibraltar Schools, where students will have an opportunity to win prizes donated by Pirate’s Cove, Sister Bay Bowl and Bayshore Outfitters.

“It’s very fun, and it’s very local,” Howson said.

Ballot boxes were distributed Feb. 1 and will be removed sometime between the middle and end of March.

But how will we know exactly when the ice goes out? A rope is connecting the little goat in the boat to a timer, and when the ice goes out, the rope will pull at the timer, which will record the date and time.

The average date of the ice melting is around April 10, Howson said. The latest it’s gone out is in May. In 2018, the ice went out April 15 with 30 inches of snow, and in 2019, it went out April 11 with nine inches of snow.

Howson and her team wondered how they could make the contest even more fun this year. In the past, the timer was present, but an element was missing that would make the quirky contest stand out to the public.

“That’s when we decided to have people be able to guess when the ice goes out because the goat on the boat will float,” Howson said. “We thought it would be fun for everybody to be able to drive by and see something in the dead of winter.”

The Parks Department provided the goat, and Greg “Fuzzy” Sunstrom built the boat. 

“You never know who will be floating in the boat next year,” Howson said.

The goat on a boat even caught the attention of Fox 11 News, which did a short segment on Feb. 7.

This year’s participating businesses and prizes are Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, $25 gift certificate; Bargains Unlimited, $25 gift certificate; Bay Shore Outfitters, two-hour kayak rental; Bhirdo’s Shell, $25 gas card; Ecology Sports, outdoor goodies; Good Samaritan–Scandia Village, $25 gift certificate for Bargains Unlimited; Hammersmith TV and Radio Shack, $25 gift certificate; Husby’s Food & Spirits, two large pizzas; Jungwirth Ace Hardware, $25 gift certificate; Lampert’s Lumber, two Big Larrys; Northern Door Communications, bluetooth beanie; On Deck Clothing Company, $50 gift card; Sister Bay Automotive, free oil change; Sister Bay Bowl, $25 gift card; Sub Express, two large pizzas; Top Shelf Café and Gourmet, bottle of wine; Yacht Works, $25 gift certificate.