PONTOON PARTY MAKES WAVES Big Bird, Ernie go along for ride


Aboard Piney Run Lake's pontoon, children swept the clouds away, sang of sunny days and took the waterway to Sesame Street.

Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie dolls all came along for the ride Wednesday. Oscar and any other grouches stayed home.

Karen Jenne, park assistant and pontoon captain for the day, passed out life jackets to the little cruisers. Many clutched a mother's hand and looked a little nervous as they embarked on their maiden voyages.

"Look, we are making waves," said Jeffrey Duerr, 5 1/2 , as the pontoon pulled away from the dock.

In a hot pink cap and bright yellow sunglasses, 4 1/2 -year-old Caitlin Krebs hugged her Big Bird puppet.

"You look a little like Big Bird yourself with those glasses," said Aaron Marszal, 4.

The boat's canvas top provided shade, but Adam Jackson, 3, put a red cape around his Ernie doll, "so he won't get sunburned."

The pontoon glided through the water among canoes and paddle boats.

"Look at the sailboats and wave hello," said Vicki Duerr to her sons, Jeffrey and Matthew. "I have always wanted to take the children on one of these cruises."

Ms. Jenne played tapes with familiar tunes in the voices of favorite characters on the children's TV program. The children sang along, adding noisy notes to the lake's usually quiet coves.

"That's Bert singing," cried one child.

"I know all the names of the characters by now," said Georgene Kaleina-Flaherty, who brought her daughter. "But who are Susan and Gordon?"

"They are the adults on the show," said another mother.

Ms. Jenne spotted a turtle sunning itself on a log near the shore.

"I see him," yelled Adam. "He is eating a bug."

Adam also insisted he had spied a giraffe peeking out from the trees.

Megan Evans, 4 1/2 , a seasoned traveler on her third sail this season, wore Little Mermaid socks.

"Ariel won't be in this water," she said with certainty.

Aaron insisted the captain keep her hands on the helm and refrain from locating further points of interest.

"Keep your hands on the wheel or we'll crash," he said.

Ms. Jenne borrowed Adam's puppet and placed its hands under hers around the helm. Doubly reassured, Aaron no longer fretted about possible mishaps.

In a secluded cove, Ms. Jenne turned off the engine and allowed the boat to drift idly as she read "It's Easy" to the children.

"We will be OK," she promised as the boat inched toward the shore. "We won't get stuck."

L The little girls sat listening to the story about gardening.

"I grew flowers last year, and now they are taller than Big Bird," said Caitlin.

Once they had their sea legs, the boys had little time for stories. They wanted to keep sailing. They crowded at the railings and watched the waves as the boat got under way again.

"You can see fish," said Jeffrey Duerr.

"Make room for me. I need to look at the water, too," said his 2 1/2 -year-old brother, Matt.

Trish Hickey said she was so pleased with her one-hour sail with her son that she had made reservations for several more cruises.

"It is so hard to find inexpensive entertainment for children," she said. "This is perfect."

She and Ms. Kaleina-Flaherty planned to end their day with a trip to the Nature Center.

"I want to go there and see the birds," said Marissa Flaherty, 5.

"I want to take a hike," said Sean Hickey, 5.

Piney Run has several theme excursions for children and adults planned throughout the summer.

Haley Boyd, 3 1/2 , will be returning with her mother, Trisha, for the Beauty and the Beast cruise.

"I have a Beauty doll, and I am going to bring her with me," said the little girl.

Adam had taken a loaf of bread on the boat hoping to feed wildfowl. Just as the boat docked, he finally spotted a group of ducks. He was out of his life jacket and on the shore in a flash.

As he tossed crumbs to the nibbling ducks, another group of children boarded the pontoon, prepared to find their way to Sesame Street.

Information: 795-3274.

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