Steve LaCoursiere was no stranger to medallion hunts, but the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days 50th anniversary search was the first time that he had been successful.
“I have always enjoyed treasure hunting and I have done lots of medallion hunts,” said the Coon Rapids resident. “I was close the last time there was a Snowflake Days medallion hunt, but this is first one that I have won.”
The medallion hunt began Saturday, Jan. 25 with the first clue posted on the Coon Rapids Snowflake Days website at 8 a.m. that morning and continued the same time each morning until the medallion was found by LaCoursiere two weeks later, the morning of Saturday, Feb. 8.
LaCoursiere had to wait a week to collect his $500 prize Sunday, Feb. 16 when a presentation was made at the Snowflake Days ice bar outside the Harvest Grill restaurant at the Bunker Hills Golf Course.
To qualify for the prize, LaCoursiere not only had to produce the medallion, but also a Snowflake Days button.
The medallion hunt was sponsored by Frank Mannella of Cedar Valley Exteriors, a Coon Rapids-based business.
A lifelong Coon Rapids resident, Mannella said he was delighted to sponsor the medallion hunt. “It was always my favorite part of Snowflake Days,” he said. “I loved the medallion hunt growing up.”
LaCoursiere had already determined what he was going to do with the $500 – purchase a snowmobile, he said.
He found the medallion about 11:30 a.m. Feb. 8 in a large snow bank in what is now the city-owned property in the Port Riverwalk area south of Coon Rapids Boulevard.
Clues led LaCoursiere – and a lot of other people – to an area when the former First Bank of Coon Rapids used to be located at the Coon Rapids Boulevard frontage road and Avocet Street, according to LaCoursiere.
Indeed, he stopped digging Friday night (Feb. 7) because there were so many other people there, LaCoursiere said.
But the clue that was posted the morning of Feb. 8 enabled LaCoursiere to pinpoint what he thought was the location of the medallion, he said.
That clue which included “a trip to Dwain or Kenji” to fix a “bicuspid” referred to dentists, Drs. Dwain Breitbach and Kenji Horita, who had an office in the old Coon Rapids Clinic building behind the bank.
The clue also stated, “Done with your visit? Then head north by northwest?”
That prompted LaCoursiere to focus on the area where the former bank’s drive-through was located adjacent to Avocet near the intersection with 100th Avenue and across from the former Sportsman’s Club. The clue Feb. 6 referring to a letter and “fine dining,” alluding to the old Coon Rapids Post Office and the Sportsman’s, also helped.
According to LaCoursiere, an earlier line in the third clue posted Jan. 27, “It’s somewhere in the city so search high and low” drew his attention to a large snow bank.
He was not alone; there was a woman searching in the same area that morning. “I was digging in the snow bank with a shovel feeling around, then I felt a plastic bag and inside was the medallion,” LaCoursiere said. “The lady was only 15 feet away.”
Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe, a member of the Snowflake Days Committee, hid the medallion and wrote the clues. It was the first time that he had done that and it took him the better part of two weeks to complete the clues, rewriting them as he went, according to Howe.
As it was the 50th anniversary of Snowflake Days, he wanted to provide historical references, which was why the medallion was hidden on the property on which the Coon Rapids bank originally stood and where his mother worked for many years, Howe said.
Howe sprinkled his clues with other historical references to Coon Rapids, he said.
“I really enjoyed it,” Howe said. “I was not really sure how easy or tough to make it, but was hoping to make the hunt last two weeks if possible. It came pretty close.”
He does not know how many people took part in the hunt, but one evening as he drove by the location, Howe said he saw one woman with a headlamp digging up snow in a large area in what would have been the bank’s front parking lot.