They’re talking about something strange in Grand Lake St. Marys this summer, and it’s not algae.
She’s about three-fourths the size of an elephant, with a serpent’s body and a big back hump. Her feet resemble those of a chicken, and those who’ve seen her talk of a single green eye on her forehead and a red eye of her long tail. Hair and feathers cover her whole body.
Her diet includes farm dogs and frightened humans, and her favorite food is pumpkin pie.
She is the Hoedag, and folks with the Lake Improvement Association hope reviving this 1910 myth can revive the magic once found at Ohio’s largest inland lake. The group unveiled the Hoedag as its mascot Wednesday.
“Some of the new people around the lake were saying, ‘What’s a Hoedag?’” said Mark Piening, the Lake Improvement Association’s vice president. “The older folks say, ‘Yeah, it’s out there.’ It’s fun, different and brings awareness to the trials and tribulations of the lake.”
The lake community’s fighting for its life. Toxic algae brought negative attention to the lake over the last few summers, as phosphorous from manure and chemical runoffs created unsafe conditions. For a bit of last summer, state officials warned against running boats through the lake. This summer, you still can’t swim in the lake, although it’s safe to boat.
The Hoedag and Grand Lake have a lot in common, Piening reasons. Both are just misunderstood, looking for love.
According to an old article about the Hoedag, written in the St. Marys student newspaper “The Blue Print” by Maggie Dine and Mike Anderson, the Hoedag is “a shy and quiet animal, who seemed to be starved for affection.”
There’s a fresh take on Grand Lake’s version of the Loch Ness Monster. Graphic artist Adam Haruff took an old newspaper clipping to recreate the Hoedag. He never heard the Hoedag legend growing up in Celina.
Still, Haruff knows what the Hoedag would say if she could talk: “Fix the lake.”
“I think it’s pretty important since it draws attention to Grand Lake,” he said. “It gives people something to look to, a morale builder and a mascot.”
In the spring, the Lake Improvement Association had a contest for students to create videos about the beast, and you can watch the winners in the user-submitted videos section of LimaOhio.com. The area students’ interest overwhelmed organizers. There’s even a website, SaveTheHoedag.com.
As for saving the Hoedag’s habitat, there’s been work on that too. An alum treatment earlier this year seems to be having some effect. Piening said despite hot days this summer, the blue-green algae hasn’t returned, showing the alum helped.
“Hopefully we can get a whole-lake application next year. The goal of the (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) is to not have any posted signs around the lake, so you can boat, ski, get in the water and swim, with the beaches open,” Piening said. “In other words, we want to be able to tell people Grand Lake is open for business.”
When it is, the Hoedag will be happy again, especially if you bring her some pumpkin pie.
By David Trinko, The Lima News