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Dunking, Honoring Paul Rifkin

Written by Cape Cod Wave
Paul Rifkin gets dunked on Waquoit Day.

Paul Rifkin gets dunked on Waquoit Day.

WAQUOIT – It’s really all about Paul Rifkin and hearing the splash.

A pastor, a fisherman, a teacher, and a dog trainer are among those who will sit in the dunk tank at the Second Annual Waquoit Day this weekend.

But the Reverend Nell Fields of Waquoit Congregational Church said she has no doubt about who will be the main attraction at the old fashioned village fair.

Rifkin, an outspoken restaurant owner and peace activist who never shies away from a heated discussion, is by far the most controversial figure who will sit on the unsteady seat.

“We’re just doing this so he doesn’t feel alone. We’re doing this for him. We’re charging double for Paul,” Rev. Fields said with a laugh.

For his part, Rifkin agrees that the dunk tank has a way of attracting people who like you and people who don’t like you, with perhaps more enthusiasm for the latter.
“A few people like me and they’ll want to dunk me because they like me, and a whole bunch of people can’t stand my [expletive] so hopefully we’ll make a few dollars for the affair,” Rifkin said.

Rifkin said he is not going to take dunking without a response and he plans to bring some “props” to the event.

“I’m going to taunt people,” he said. “I’ll bring a mask and a snorkel and some water balloons. I won’t be the only one getting wet.”

He also said he plans to bring a book and sit cross-legged reading, “to flame the masses.”

Waquoit Day is Saturday, August 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is a free community event on the church grounds with events also at Waquoit National Estuarine Research Reserve. There will be live music, food, games, petting zoo, crafts fair, tours and displays.

Rev. Fields will also be spending some time in the dunk tank and even those who do not know her will recognize her right away.

“I’m wearing my clerical collar because people want that,” she said of her dunk tank attire.

She said she expects there will be some people interested in dunking her.

“I believe in the ministry if we don’t get people mad, we aren’t doing our job,” she said.

Among the other dunkees is Joe Yukna, a dog trainer whose business is Joe the Dogman.

Rev. Fields said there might be some drop-outs from his courses who want to dunk him, not to mention “I know a couple of dogs who are lining up,” she said.

Another dunkee is Tom O’Malley of Mashpee, who is in charge of buildings and grounds at the church. His claim to fame, Rev. Fields said, is he loves fishing.
“He likes to spend time on the water and Saturday he may spend time in the water,” she said.

Kim and Joel Clifford of Mashpee will also be in the dunk tank and Rev. Fields said their children have been saving up their allowance so they can dunk their parents.

And we may have a ringer. Their son was a pitcher on a winning Mashpee Little League team. Because of his throwing acumen, Rev. Fields said she had no doubt what will happen when the Cliffords get in the dunking stand.

“They’re going down,” she said.
The last dunkee is Deborah Harrington of Waquoit who teaches history, criminal justice and psychology at Falmouth High School.

She likely will have some students, former and current, interested in dunking her,” Rev. Fields said.

All the dunkees are members of Waquoit Congregational Church except Rifkin, Rev. Fields said, adding that he is an “honorary” member—whether he likes it or not.
Rev. Fields said she has been looking into the history of dunk tanks and found they were derived from a medieval method of torture that was also a popular punishment among the Puritans.

Because of the tanks’ history with religion, Rev. Fields said, “It’s very appropriate that a congregational church would be having a dunk tank, reaching back to our Puritan roots.”

She added, “Those Puritans knew how to have fun.”


Paul Rifkin is named Citizen of the Year at Waquoit Day, August 24, 2013.

Paul Rifkin is named Citizen of the Year at Waquoit Day, August 24, 2013.

In a surprise move, Paul Rifkin was named Citizen of the Year at Waquoit Day. As he went from video recording the event to being in front of the cameras, Rifkin did not miss a beat. “Thank you for this well-deserved honor,” he said, with a laugh.

The award included a proclamation from State Representative David Vieira, who said that while he does not always agree with Rifkin’s politics, he agrees with his dedication to participation, the hallmark of citizenship.


– Laura M. Reckford

About the author

Cape Cod Wave

Cape Cod Wave is an online magazine covering the character and culture of Cape Cod. We feature long-form journalism, slices of Cape Cod life, scenic slide shows, and music videos of local bands playing original music.

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