LOUDONVILLE — In many towns, the holidays often bring about excitement for tree lightings, parades, and Santa visits.
But in the villages of Loudonville and Perrysville those holiday festivities take a back seat to a different holiday tradition: pickles. More specifically the village residents are looking for pickles. These pickles, though, come with prizes.
Known as the Pickle Hunt, the annual event is promoted by the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum and sponsored by nearly a dozen local businesses. According to the museum’s curator, Kenny Libben, the event has century-old origins rooted in a Victorian-era tradition of hiding a pickle in the tree on Christmas morning — the first child to find it would normally receive an extra gift.
Though that tradition has largely faded away, it is once again popular at least in the Mohican area. The current version of the pickle hunt was developed by the museum nearly a decade ago, first introduced at private events where Libben said it was fun game for members but quickly became the focus for attendees.
Seeing the overwhelming positive response, the museum then launched a community-wide pickle hunt with new pickles hidden throughout the month of December, leading up to Christmas, and clues to their location posted on social media.
Libben says the rules are simple: a pickle is hidden, or “dropped,” somewhere in the Mohican area and a clue is posted on the Facebook group called “The Pickle Hunt.” The first clues are vague, only giving a general location or a riddle pointing to where the pickle is located.
Throughout the day, if the pickle remains unfound, further clues will be posted to narrow the search. Once the pickle is found, the winner will be announced, and the hunt called off until the next one is dropped.
In addition to keeping the souvenir pickle — which is specially designed and printed from resin by Gorman-Rupp Industries — the winner is awarded one or more prizes donated by area businesses.
Competition is often fierce, sometimes with over 100 hunters showing up at the announced location to seek out the pickle and nearly 500 hunters subscribing to the Facebook alerts. Each pickle is also hand-painted by the L-P Art Club with a unique design and marked to commemorate the year it was found.
This year, a guest will be hiding the pickles — a role the museum has whimsically titled as the Lord of the Pickles — as Libben has said that when the calendar turns December all eyes in the community are focused on him, “once people remember that I’m the one hiding pickles, I can’t go anywhere without being followed or spied on. I’ve even walked out of buildings before to overhear someone on the phone with their family or friends telling them that they thought I just hid a pickle in that location.”
This year, each pickle comes with a prize worth $50 or more — ranging from cash to gift — and includes a free hat from Bill Harris Ford. A Grand Prize Pickle, revealed on Christmas Eve, carries a prize package of nearly $400 in value.
In addition to Harris, other sponsoring businesses include Raby Hardware, The Alabaster Mouse, The Radiant Peacock, Drops of Essentials Health & Wellness, Rhoads Jewelry & Gifts, Kick & Gilman LLC, Shrock Premier Custom Construction, Mohican Country Market, Loudonville Farmers Equity, Truly Inspired Paper Co., Lingenfelter Jewelers, Buzzard's Family Shoe Store, Mickey Mart, Subway, TOF Apiaries, Premier Metals Loudonville, and Landoll's Mohican Castle.
Libben said the museum is grateful for the support shown by local businesses — totaling nearly $1,000 in prize money — as well as the interest shown by the rest of the community, “it’s amazing how popular this event has become, and we’re truly amazed by how quickly it has become a staple of the holiday season.”
For those hoping to join in on the fun, Libben noted that the best way is to search Facebook groups for “The Pickle Hunt,” noting that Facebook users can subscribe and receive alerts when new clues are posted but even those who don’t have a Facebook account can still view clues and announcements.