As It Happens

'Grandma keeps snowball in freezer' and other P.E.I. newsmakers of 2018

It's time again for the completely unofficial list of P.E.I.'s top newspapers.

The unofficial annual list is former journalist Dave Atkinson's 'love letter' to his home province

Mae Arsenault has kept the snowball carefully stored in a ziplock back in her freezer for 11 years. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

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It's time again for the completely unofficial annual list of P.E.I.'s top newsmakers

Every year, former CBC journalist Dave Atkinson and his pals Neal Gillis and Ty Stapleton scour the province's headlines for the silliest, most low-stakes and quintessentially P.E.I. stories they can find.

"This is my love letter to P.E.I. I don't want this to be an insult to the hardworking reporters or anything like this. I think these stories are evidence that we live in the greatest place on Earth," Atkinson told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"We have 150,000 people on the Island and we're served by two daily papers and an entire CBC station. So every morning, all those reporters have to wake up and say, 'What am I going to pitch to my editor today?'"

Eight of those pitches have now become Atkinson's 2018 newsmakers of the year.

1. 'Grandma keeps snowball in freezer' 

Courtesy of CBC News, Mae Arsenault of Summerside, P.E.I., made headlines in May for keeping a snowball in a Ziploc bag in her freezer for 11 years.

It was a gift from her then-five-year-old granddaughter.

"This was a bit of a debate on whether it should make the P.E.I. newsmaker list because part of my criteria is I think, 'Would this make headlines elsewhere?'" Atkinson said.

"And I'm telling you — it would."

When she was five years old, Alecia Arsenault gave her grandmother a snowball as a gift. Eleven years later, her grandmother still has it. (Submitted by Mae Arsenault)

2. 'Former Islander eats big donair'

Food challenge aficionado Joel Hansen gobbled down a six-pound donair at a Sydney, N.S., restaurant in 28 minutes and 30 seconds, reports the Guardian newspaper

"'Former Islander' is actually sort of an archetypal character in the P.E.I. news. If you lived here and then you went away and you did something either great or terrible, you're a former Islander," Atkinson said.

"Unless you did something really good, in which case you're still an Islander."

There's a strong case for updating Hansen's status, Atkinson said, "because that was a really big donair he ate."

3. 'Horse gets haircut'

A rogue equestrian groomer appears to have trespassed onto a Panmure Island property in October and trimmed Yoshi the horse's mane and tail, reports CBC News.

Nobody knows who did it, and RCMP are on the case. Yoshi was unharmed.

"Like, who would be so bold to do this daytime crime to cut the hair off a horse?" Atkinson said. 

RCMP are investigating after a man reported that someone trespassed on his property on Panmure Island and cut his horse's hair. (Submitted by Frank Dourte)

4. 'Attempted murder by sandwich'

Lest you begin to worry that Atkinson injected some serious news into this decided unserious list — fear not. This story isn't actually about an attempted murder.

Rather, it's about a fender-bender caused by a woman reaching for her sandwich while driving in Stanhope, the Guardian reports. The driver was uninjured.

5. 'Hoot your bud' 

Atkinson took a jab at the CBC with this one from an Island Morning headline that reads "Ready to hoot your bud? A guide to lingo for legalized marijuana."

The pot talk explainer was courtesy of Brenton Garnhum, who runs the Grow Daddy cannabis shop in Stratford.

When you take a single puff of marijuana smoke and blow it out, that's a called a 'hoot,' says Brenton Garnhum of Grow Daddy. (Mitch Cormier/CBC)

6. 'Man pees in barn'

This one is more complicated than the headline suggests.

In July, P.E.I. harness racing driver Marc Campbell was suspended after his horse Freddie failed a drug test.

Campbell told the Guardian Freddie was innocent and that his test results were tainted when a man taking medication for gout urinated in the horse's stall.

Atkinson called it "the hardest story in the world to write a headline for."

7. 'Heart-shaped potato'

This one is exactly what it sounds like. 

CBC News reports that Danie van Schalkwyk found the big ol' spud at Arthur Mooney and Sons farm in November, and took it home for his daughters, who absolutely loved it.

"It literally is an entire story about how somebody dug up a potato and it's large and it's shaped like a heart," Atkinson said. 

Schalkwyk's family was overjoyed to see the huge, heart-shaped potato. (Submitted by Lorraine Hennessey)

8. 'Raccoon with a jar on head'

Atkinson's final entry is, alas, a rather tragic one.

The furry creature was discovered dead with a jar stuck on its head in western P.E.I., prompting officials from Fish and Wildlife to remind Islanders to clean their jars and cans before recycling, CBC News reports.

As It Happens contenders

CBC Radio's As It Happens reported two P.E.I. stories this year that somehow did not make the cut. 

The first, "P.E.I. reporter tells alarmed readers paper had no obits because 'nobody died,'" was an oversight, says Atkinson.

"That's a serious omission," he admitted.

The other, "P.E.I. farmer apologizes in local paper for calling agriculture minister 'an arsehole,'" was up for consideration, he said, but didn't pass muster with all three panellists. 

But, Atkinson noted, he did run into the farmer in question at the doctor's office on Monday morning.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Jeanne Armstrong. 

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