A Grand Tradition.

That's how organizers describe the Great Grand Bobber Drop, which returns Saturday, July 22, to Grand Lake.

Initially organized by his grandfather, Sam Williams has continued the crazy tradition which includes organizing 2,000-plus bobbers, flinging them out of an airplane and watching people below go crazy - ok, nuts - as they catch the tiny red and white (and sometimes orange) orbs with everything from nets to hats to even sheets. 

It's a tradition, which Williams said, began as a way to draw tourists into town. Now, he continues it in order to give back to the community he loves.

The event - which many set as a "must do" outing - draws in hundreds, if not thousands of people. It's become an economic boom for the region.

Area businesses donate prizes - which are linked to a numbered bobber - Williams drops the bobbers into Grand Lake.

Bobber hunters snatch up the bobbers, then go into the Grand Lake Sports Center (or Grand Lake Casino) to turn in their finds (five per day, per person, for multi-day period).

Those with prizes often visit other businesses - to get their prizes, or to simply spend the day in the area.

Each year, Williams says more bobbers than not are turned in - which means very few prizes go unclaimed in the contest.

Those that remain on the last day are given away in a "everyone who registers" drawing at the end of the bobber return period. A grand prize is also awarded to one lucky winner.

Williams describes the feeling he gets, as he drops the bobbers out of the plane, as magical. In fact, he claims he feels like Santa Claus, bringing an early Christmas to Grand Lakers.

For many participants - especially the children - the event becomes a rite of passage, with memory upon memory building each summer.

Families often spend the morning on the boat (or personal watercraft), catching and finding bobbers. Some bobbers are kept as souvenirs - it becomes the prize, rather than the assigned item associated with its number.

Every child who turns in a bobber is given a coupon for a free ice cream cone at McDonalds (which is awesome), guaranteeing the fun continues a bit longer.

So why write this hoo-rah column? Why hype this event?

Because frankly, Grand Lake's Santa Claus needs some help this year.

For a variety of reasons, the date for this year's drop has moved from its typical home in August, to Saturday, July 22. This means Williams and others have less than 21 days to collect prizes.

So, this is a chance for Grove - and the surrounding area - to pitch in, and help.

The Grow with Grove team may say it best - if we want Grove to grow and thrive, we must roll up our sleeves, put in a little sweat equity and make things happen.

This is one of those moments. It's time to put aside differences or potential business rivalries. It's time to say - how can I help, find a prize (or two), and pass them onto organizers.

Williams doesn't get a lot of business bobber drop weekend. If you've ever watched the return process, he has a steady line of people file through his store to return bobbers. Tables of Grove Rotary members are placed in strategic locations to make the process go smoothly.

Grand Lake Sports Center is packed, but with smiles, rather than shoppers.

Insurance costs for the event have doubled. Williams willingly pays the price to see this multi-generation tradition continue.

Williams' entire goal for the bobber drop - beyond the joy it brings - is to have business flow to his neighbors - be it a competing outdoor store or a clothing boutique. He wants to see the entire community prosper - because only then are we all winners.

So how can you help?

In the next week or so, volunteers - including the Grove Sun staff - will be calling people, to secure prizes for the event. It can be small - say a 50 percent off of a single purchase, or it can be big - a free item designed to delight the crankiest lake grinch. 

Or your business could do like others, and give a coupon for an item to everyone who finds - and registers - their bobber.

A business without a tangible item to give - say a real estate agency or law firm - might choose to sponsor gift certificates for Grove Chamber bucks, which in turn, pumps money back into the local economy.

This is a chance to help out Grand Lake's Santa Claus. Which, frankly, in the end, gives back to the entire community, as a grand tradition thrives.

Call it Christmas in July, when everyone wins the grand prize.

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller is the managing editor of The Grove Sun and Delaware County Journal. Have an idea for a column or story? She can be reached at khutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228.