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Governor's Fishing Opener plans underway

Planning is underway for the 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener, Mark Dayton and a cadre of media invited to drop a line in Fish Hook, Potato, Eagle and Island lakes Saturday, May 11.

"It's been a long time in coming," event chair Dennis Mackedanz told the 30-plus arriving for last week's planning meeting. "But it's not that far away," he said of the 66th annual event that is expected to engage 200 to 400 community volunteers and area businesses to welcome 125 to 150 members of the media - newspaper, radio, TV and magazine.

The Fish Hook chain of lakes was chosen because the Fish Hook River is the focal point of Park Rapids, Mackedanz said. Highway 71 provides access to the four lakes and it heads up to Itasca State Park. "And all four are good early lakes."

"2013 is the right year," said Carol Altepeter of Explore Minnesota. "Park Rapids is known for its events. The difference this time is, we're bringing the state in. We're all in the same boat," she joked.

Chamber executive Katie Magozzi, who will work as "event planner," noted the board unanimously supported hosting the Governor's Opener.

Park Rapids was the site of the event in 1979, when Gov. Al Quie caught "one of the best stringers of walleye ever held by a Minnesota governor," the Park Rapids Enterprise reported. A grinning governor held up nine lunkers, with his guide, Tim Young, at his side. A 7 pound, 14 ounce walleye was the biggest of the bunch.

This year's schedule of events includes a welcome dinner Thursday evening. Friday, "the community will come together to showcase" the area's attributes, Mackedanz said.

Dayton will host a radio show from 9 to 10 Friday morning, followed by a variety of activities, such as games of golf or tours of Itasca State Park, the wildlife refuge, fisheries and other area attractions.

A community picnic, beginning in the late afternoon, will be free of charge and open to the public. An event for kids is also being planned for Friday.

The Park Rapids Rotary, Lions, Downtown Business Association and Lakes Area Arts Council have agreed to assist. Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations has also pledged support.

The governor is expected to host live TV interviews during the evening.

Fishing host pairing will complete the day's events.

Organizers are seeking 110 qualified fishing hosts willing to serve as "community ambassadors," who will take the event's guests out on the water. Jason Durham and Blake Johnson are coordinating this.

The governor may decide to drop a line at midnight, or wait until sunrise.

Breakfast will be served before sunrise on the opener with a send-off ceremony planned at 6:45 a.m.

A shore lunch will be held Saturday over the noon hour for registered event attendees, committee members, sponsors and fishing hosts.

A kids fishing contest is on the "dock-et" Saturday afternoon.

A celebration reception and dinner will cap the day, when winning raffle tickets will be drawn.

Altepeter reported Waconia, the city hosting the event in May, worked with a $325,000 budget, $80,000 of it in cash, the remaining in-kind donations. "$70,000 to $80,000 (cash) is realistic for Park Rapids," she said.

These funds will be raised through raffle ticket sales for the Crestliner boat package, valued at $27,900, and Smokey Hills Outdoor Store Ice Castle icehouse, a $15,500 value, as well as cash donations. Both the boat and icehouse were donated.

To date, the Chamber has raised nearly $8,000 through raffle ticket sales and $1,000 in seed money from Waconia.

Individuals can now go to and click on Minnesota 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener to find volunteer application forms, connect to the Explore Minnesota website, learn about sponsorship opportunities and more. Or call the Chamber at 732-4111.

An executive committee has formed as a "conduit for the bigger picture," Mackedanz said. And volunteer opportunities abound - from raffle sales, boat towing, coordinators, registration, clean up, kitchen, food and beverage serving and more.

The Governor's Fishing Opener has been a tradition in Minnesota since 1948. The event was designed to promote the development of Minnesota's recreation industry, and in recent years, it has served as a kick-off celebration for the summer tourism season. Travel and tourism generate $11.3 billion in leisure and hospitality gross sales in Minnesota annually, according to Explore Minnesota.