Crowds of kids and their families took to Sunnybrook Park with reels, bait, and camping chairs. For months the youth in the area have been clamouring for outdoor competition and when the air horn fired, dozens of lines flew into the water, and the derby commenced. The fishing derby has been a staple during June Jubilee for 15 years. According to organizers, the event serves as an opportunity to get kids out of the house and away from screens.
Joe Randall, chamber president, was hard at work organizing the event. Randall explained that every year the events gets around 200 kids. "The object is to get kids outside away from screens," said Randall. Within the enclosure, there were tons of prizes, from frisbees to fishing gear. Every item carefully selected to promote outdoor activities. Randall added that he receives a great deal of help from Tom Weber, owner of Weber's Wadena Hardware. The duo hunt and search constantly for the best deals on prizes to make the event all the more fun.
Top prizes were awarded to the participants with the heaviest panfish. Top prizes included a tackle box, tackle, and a fishing rod. Prizes were also given to the heaviest northern pike, bull-head, and non-typical fish like bass or trout.
A line of fishermen stretched from one end of the water to the other. Kids casting and recasting, dragging in the weeds, with a just a few getting hooks stuck in a tree. The initial opening of the competition had many pulling up nothing. After 30 minutes, the fish started biting. All over the park, kids caught fish and darted to the enclosure to have their fish registered. Marissa Heifort was fishing with her family when she got a bite. After a brief battle she pulled out what appeared to be a bluegill. Heifort commented that the fish took the bait in a rather strange spot, much to her surprise.
On top of a metal grate stood, Hunter Templin, a young fisherman with his eye on the prize. After a little wait, something big took the bait. The line went out and the fight began. After a struggle, a northern pike was pulled from the water. The young man and his father were quick to unhook the catch before Templin ran off to have it registered. The fish weighed in at 2 pounds, 5 ounces.
Executive director of the Wadena Chamber of Commerce, Jed Brazier, was helping out with a variety of tasks during the days festivities. "The best thing in the world is when you see a kid with a fish on the line walking up to the little wading pool. They have the biggest smiles, they're so excited, it doesn't matter if there are five bigger fish in there or not. The fact they have a fish to show of makes them so happy, seeing that is incredible," said Brazier as he looked out on the fishing crowd.
The George Ditsworth Fishing Derby is apart of family fun day, an entire day devoted to family togetherness during June Jubilee. The event was free for kids and parents were allowed to help their children with bait, casting, and removal.