Forget the fact that Mother Nature posted a very unCanadian mid-February 61 degrees at the 14th Annual Carnivale: Canada fundraiser Saturday for the downtown kidscommons children’s museum.

It was so warm that some people acknowledged that, before arriving to raise money, they spent the afternoon unexpectedly improving their golf score on the links.

Still, a crowd of about 340 people, many bedecked in Canadian hockey jerseys, was chill enough to raise an estimated $120,000 for the facility that just celebrated another year of record attendance.

Supporters such as Kevin Merritt, who garnered the most expensive live auction prize of the night in the form of an RCI condo getaway to anywhere of his choosing for a cool $4,200, mentioned that it was for a wonderful cause. And he bid for a wonderful reason: wife Christina told him to find a way to take her on a nice vacation.

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“If I hadn’t bid on that, she definitely might have flushed me down the (museum’s) giant toilet, for sure,” Merritt said.

A 73-item silent auction, including everything from ski packages to restaurant gift certificates, also contributed to the festivities.

Right from the start, organizers, including honorary co-chairs Dave and Susan Barker and Brian and Patty Hannasch, proved they were serious about their Canadian focus. Greeting attendees at the door was 200-pound, thick-coated reindeer Hermie, boasting impressive antlers and equally impressive social skills as he calmly allowed people to pet him.

“He has a fully furry nose, so he doesn’t get snot-sickles (in the cold),” handler Coyote Chris Hansen of Indianapolis’ Silly Safaris told people.

In keeping with something of the country’s animal-oriented focus, the next step inside the door led arrivals to a souvenir flask of caribou, the signature Canadian drink of red wine, whiskey, cloves and maple syrup. Buck Ritz, dressed in a Calgary Flames jersey, had the honor of distributing the drinks.

Next came well-known Columbus City Police Department’s Alan Trisler, dressed in full regalia of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, thanks to an arresting online search for a fitting outfit.

kidscommons board member Tim Coriden strode inside wearing a traditional Canadian maple leaf emblazoned on a T-shirt — a homemade design painted by wife Ann.

“It was a last-minute idea,” Ann said.

Others donned Canadian flag-style scarves or even hockey helmets. A sound system blared hits from Canadian pop-rock artists ranging from Bryan Adams to Shania Twain. Chef Gethin Thomas prepared a meal that included everything from smoked Canadian trout to Canadian bacon to beef and pork pie.

“People are loving it,” said catering worker Matt Dow.

Diner Mario Sanchez proclaimed the variety “really, really tasty. I think Canada has absolutely the best food to pair with a good beer.”

But this was a night for more than beer. In a tent set up on a closed-off Washington Street, bartenders poured drinks into literal ice shot glasses as people danced, and played a bit of street hockey as The Tiptonians kicked off their set with Sister Hazel’s 1997 hit, “All For You.”

But actually, the night really was all for them — the 50,000 youngsters and parents and grandparents who reveled in kidscommons’ activities last year.

And the goodness-knows-how-many of them who will enjoy visits this year.

Carnivale by the numbers

7 — Number of items in the live auction

14 — Number of years for the event

73 — Number of items in the silent auction

About 340 — Attendance on Saturday

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.