Michelle, from Changing Gears Bike Shop and a good friend of mine, had a great idea – Let’s host a paddling triathlon in the Tomahawk area and let’s benefit the veterans. As so happens in life, plans changed as Michelle left to experience life in Colorado, but she inspired me to think about picking up the reins and fulfilling her goal. Discussions within our group – Team Titanium – about triathlons led me to a discussion with Tim, part owner of Mitchell Metal Products, and Mike, owner of Ballyhoos, to create an event to benefit VFW Post 1638 in their quest to build a post that would host functions for the community and a multi-county region for veterans and to also benefit The Friends of the River Bend Trail to assist in the construction of bike paths throughout Merrill. We took the plan to Dan at City of Merrill Parks and Rec. We wanted a unique name and theme. Owing to the significant number of Black Squirrels in Merrill, we thought it would be a fun theme – hence “Black Squirrel Scurry”. A Tomahawk student – Brianne(?) came up with a unique logo, thus Shirley Squirrel was born. Volunteer groups such as Scout Troop 503, VFW Auxiliary, Friends of River Bend Trail, Merrill Area Radio Group, along with volunteers from Mitchell Metal and H & R Block stepped up to fill out our working groups. Local Safety and Emergency Personnel and local medical personnel have volunteered their time to make this event possible. Numerous individuals that had the misfortune to know me (LOL!) have also stepped up to make this event possible. The inaugural event was 2018 with about 45 people and grew to about 60 the following year. Then CoVid. We kept the event alive by making it virtual with people from across the country submitting their fees and times. Our return in 2021 was marred by a severe thunderstorm which lit up the sky and dumped multiple inches of rain from 3-6 am, thus cancelling the paddling portion due to dangerous and rapidly rising current. We switched to a biathlon and started on time sending each biker every 30 seconds. 2022 featured a low river current as about 40 entries continued the tradition. Awards were hosted next to Ballyhoo’s just hours before freshly boiled east coast lobster was served with our partnered event – Merrill Lobsterfest. Come join the tradition!