When Key Biscayne Beach Club manager Paul Zuccarni, asked if I could “take a time slot at a Dunking Booth” to benefit Friends of Cape Florida State Park, I immediately said "Yes. Absolutely. Sounds like fun." Some invitations you simply can not decline.
In just three years, the Haunted Hike has become one of the Friends of Cape Florida’s most important fundraisers. This year, more than 2,000 people enjoyed the event, said Art Yerian, manager of Bill Baggs State Park: “It was our best Haunted Hike to date.”
As to my decision to take on dunk booth duty, I began to have some misgivings after spending a little time considering sitting on a collapsing seat above a large container of water.”What if the water is really cold?” “I might look silly.” “One hour is a terribly long time.” And on and on. "What to wear?" was a concern, too. A search at the bottom of my closet provided the outfit -- a navy and white t-shirt and board shorts.
On the day of the event I arrive to find many booths had been erected near the lighthouse. Activities included face painting, electronic bull riding, bounce houses, a climbing wall and other rides and activities. Also a tent with delicious food from Boaters Grill.
I locate the dunking booth area and meet Jason Cummins, the volunteer managing the booth. A long line of kids are already waiting to throw a baseball at the target and dunk former village mayor Mayra Lindsay, but she seemed pretty dry. Even so, after an hour she was very pleased to see me, her replacement, show up. Then she is off to another engagement.
Climbing up into the tank, I pause to examine the workings of the collapsing seat and then take my perch above the tank.
Kids aim by stretching their non-throwing arm out straight, sighting down the extended arm. It looks cool, but its not very effective. Some cried when they didn't hit the target. Some crept closer to improve their chances. Some just ran for the target, but Jason would stop them before they got to the button. Tteenagers and adults eventually join in the fun..
Eventually a kid hits the button and immediately my seat collapses. I scream as I fall into the water making a big splash. Then playfully splash even more water toward the crowd as I climbed back to the seat. During my shift I am dunked a dozen times.
My replacement on the hot seat is Parker Zuccarini, age 11. If he has any reservations about his fate, they are not evident in his enthusiastic demeanor.
A group of girls are waiting patiently for Parker to get seated. Between them they have about 20 throws, but none hit the target. Not to be deterred, they link arms and run for the button, laughing and screaming all the way.
That’s what you do at a dunking booth after all.
The highlight of the evening was the Haunted Hike, which meanders along a park trail and included a mock graveyard, many monsters and volunteers dressed as ghosts and all manner of scary beings.
The different stages of the hike were prepared by different community groups -- some by Friends of Cape Florida board members, like Manny Rionda with Fill-a-Bag, and the Park itself. There was a competition for the most creative and scariest. Judges were Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tatyana Chiocchetti and Islander News Publisher Justo Rey. First prize went to the Key Biscayne Yacht for their “carnival.” Second place went to the local group of island residents calling themselves Glenridge Gould and third place went to the MSD Biscayne Nature Center.
All in all, it was a fabulous event. Save the date for Friends of Cape Florida next two events: the Full Moon Lighthouse Holiday Celebration on November 30 at 5:30 [.m. and the Love by the Moon party on Feb. 8, 2020.