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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. We're going now to a spillway known as the place where ducks walk on the fish. The spillway is just outside Linesville, Pennsylvania, a spot where water flows over a small dam. Ever since it opened in the 1930s, people have gathered there to toss bread to a riving stew of carp and mallard ducks. The carp are so thick that the ducks hop, skip, and jump across the fish to compete for slices of bread.

BLOCK: Last year, the Linesville spillway drew half a million visitors. It's part of a small but crucial tourism economy bolstered by the sale of day-old Wonder Bread from stands that line the street nearby. Earlier this year, the people of Linesville got wind of big changes planned for January 1st. Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister in collaboration with musician Tim Fite have the fishy tale of the battle for the right to throw bread. It's the latest in their song story series.

(Soundbite of tourists at the spillway)

Unidentified Child: Oh, Daddy the fishes are everywhere.

Unidentified Man #1: There's thousands of fish and they're very hungry.

DAN COLLISON: The Linesville spillway is the second largest tourist attraction in the state of Pennsylvania next to the Liberty Bell.

(Soundbite of tourists at the spillway)

Unidentified Man #1: Look at that guy, he's huge.

Unidentified Man #2: I think it ranks second to Gettysburg.

COLLISON: You can see in front of us 30 or 40 people, each of whom have a couple loaves of bread in their hands.

(Soundbite of tourist in a store)

Unidentified Woman: How much is this bread?

Unidentified Man: These are a dollar a bag.

COLLISON: There's a loaf of sliced bread, I think it's like Wonder Bread or something, and it just works great to throw it kind of like a Frisbee.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. TIM FITE: (Singing) Grandma, grandma, where's this river at? You know the one where ducks be walking on the fish's backs, Grandpa said I could have a piece of bread, To break in little bits, and throw it, Throw it over the edge.

(Soundbite of tourists at spillway)

Unidentified Woman: There you go fishes.

Unidentified Man #1: And they just try to suck it all in.

Unidentified Kid: I like to watch them fight.

COLLISON: And they're fighting over it, and then the ducks just walk on top of the fish because they're trying to get some piece of bread, grab it, and keep right on moving.

(Soundbite of tourists at spillway)

Unidentified Kid: Whoa, Daddy!

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) Hey, did you see it? (Uh huh), Look at 'em go (Oh), Give another slice, I think they like to eat some mo'. Grandpa said I could have a piece of bread To break in little bits and throw it, Throw it over the edge (over the edge), Pararap pop parum, parum, pop.

In the town where ducks walk on fishes...

Mr. BILL WALKER(ph): I'm Bill Walker, and I've been coming down here since I could walk probably.

(Soundbite of tourists at spillway)

Unidentified Kid #1: Oh, look at that one with his mouth wide open.

Unidentified Kid #2: Yeah.

Mr. WALKER: It's not the most attractive thing in the world. Maybe it would be better if we had some, you know, glorious mountain in our backyard or something, but that's not what we have. We have where the ducks walk on the fish, and that's what makes people want to come here. And otherwise, they wouldn't probably want to come here.

Ms. CINDY WHITEMAN(ph) (Owner, Laughing Duck Bookstore and Coffee House): I opened my door to get the newspapers for the day and that was the headline on them, on the Meadville Tribune, no more bread to the fish.

Mr. DAVID SCHAFFE(ph): I found out about it in the daily newspaper.

Ms. WHITEMAN (Owner, Laughing Duck Bookstore and Coffee House): My name is Cindy Whiteman. I own the Laughing Duck Bookstore and Coffee House in Linesville, Pennsylvania.

Mr. SCHAFFE: My name is David Schaffe. I have lived in the Linesville area almost all of my life.

Ms. WHITEMAN: The Meadville Tribune of Linesville, Pennsylvania, a tradition that is almost 70 years old at Pymatuning Spillway will come to an end on January 1st.

Ms. WHITEMAN and Mr. SCHAFFE: (Reading in unison) Visitors to the spillway will no longer be allowed...

Mr. SCHAFFE: (Reading) To throw bread or bread products to the thousands of carp below.

COLLISON: (Reading) Pete Houghton, manager of the Pymatuning State Park, said visitors have been tossing a little bit of everything to the fish - including cupcakes, bagels...

Mr. PETE HOUGHTON (Manager, Pymatuning State Park): My name is Pete Houghton. I'm the park manager at Pymatuning State Park.

COLLISON: (Reading) Some of which are not good for fish.

Mr. HOUGHTON: We've been feeding up there for 50 years or 60, I don't know. But back then, we had 200,000 people come to the facility with a bag or two bags of bread and threw single sliced bread out there. You go up today, and what I don't like, people bring big garbage bags full of stuff that we don't want in the water.

(Soundbite of tourists at spillway)

Unidentified Child: Dad, can I dump this out?

Mr. HOUGHTON: I know people cut up chicken and threw in watermelon, and that's not right.

(Soundbite of tourists at spillway)

Unidentified Man: We've seen birthday cakes tossed in the water.

Mr. HOUGHTON: Twinkies and cracker boxes...

Unidentified Man: Corn chips are fairly popular.

(Soundbite of talking tourists)

Unidentified Kid: Get that bagel over there.

Unidentified Man: We've got big, old, assorted doughnuts from Stroehmann's and Entenmann's plain doughnut.

Unidentified Kid: That one's supposed to be eating.

(Soundbite of news clip)

Unidentified Man: Carp are on a strict diet beginning January 1st of next year. State Park System has decreed that only state-approved pellets of fish chow sold at the spillway will be OK for the carp.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) In the town where ducks walk on fishes, They're trying to put bread out of business. But if we could see where the fish is, Then why can't we eat with the fishes...

Mr. SCHAFFE: The reaction of the people was one of shock.

Ms. WHITEMAN: Can you believe this?

Mr. SCHAFFE: Wonderment.

Unidentified Man: You want to take away the bread, and then you take away the fun. That's like mending up the crack in the Liberty Bell or something.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) I'm sorry son but I have to say...

Unidentified Man: We've been doing this since 1934.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) The last loaf will be thrown today...

Unidentified Man: The fish don't look sick to me.

Ms. WHITEMAN: And to take away the draw to the area would just obliterate our businesses.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) But with no bread in the water, Could we be dead in the water With no bread in the water? Could we be down in the water...

Unidentified Man: Very soon, there were petitions signed by thousands of people.

Mr. SCHAFFE: And ultimately, they held a public meeting.

(Soundbite of news clip)

Unidentified Man: Over 350 people piled into the Linesville High School Auditorium for a public hearing to tell officials from the Bureau of State Parks they shouldn't have made this decision without informing residents or lawmakers.

(Soundbite of public meeting)

Unidentified Woman: Jim Lascowe(ph).

Mr. JIM LASCOWE(ph): Economically, you're going to kill our area. Shame on you.

Unidentified Woman: Cathleen Caprice.

Ms. CATHLEEN CAPRICE: Are you going to have bread police out there? We going to slap handcuffs on three year olds? Bull crap!

Unidentified Woman: Wanda Rimali.

Ms. WANDA RIMALI: There are hundreds of us in this part of Pennsylvania that are going to lose our ability to earn a living with the decision that you've made. Who would ever think that one of the ugliest things in Linesville is our crown jewel? Please don't mess with it.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) Dead in the water, With no bread in the water, Could we be dead in the water? If I had to, I can fight. If I had to, I can fight. I have to fight. Shame on you. Are you going to have bread police slap handcuffs on a three year old? If I had to, I can fight. If I had to, I can fight. Bull crap, Bread police.

(Soundbite of news clip)

Unidentified Woman: Hundreds of locals who came out to Linesville to support a long-time family tradition have gotten their way, at least for now. The department is taking the next year to re-evaluate their decision and work more closely with the public to reach an acceptable solution.

Unidentified Man #1: This is a victory for the people who turned out at that meeting...

Unidentified Man #2: I wouldn't call it a victory yet. If the case got continued to next year, you know, and hopefully the lesson is that they can be more open and communicate more with the people around here about things that they're going to do in this state park that are going to have some kind of impact on the people of this town.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) Why must we lose our head Over a slice of bread? Pararap pop parum, parum, pop. In the town where ducks walk on fishes.

Unidentified Man #1: They haven't changed the rules down here I guess.

Unidentified Man #2: They kicked back for another year. So we got another year of bread.

Unidentified Woman: Thank you.

Unidentified Man #2: You're welcome.

(Soundbite of song "Bread in the Water")

Mr. FITE: (Singing) Bread set. I got to have a piece of bread To break in little bits and throw it, Throw it over the edge.

SIEGEL: Our story was produced by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister as part of the song story series by Long Haul Productions. You can download for free Tim Fite's original song, "Bread In The Water," and watch a video of the scene at the Linesville Spillway at npr.org.

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