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Planning under way for 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener

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Explore Minnesota Tourism Director John Edman arrived at the recent Governor's Fishing Opener planning meeting, expressing gratitude and kudos for what's been accomplished to date.

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The GFO is the envy of other states, he told the audience. "But what we do is because of you," he said. The event "draws attention to the community" via the media, he said of the 125 to 150 media representatives expected to arrive from the Midwest, Canada and beyond.

"It's a great way to promote the area," Edman said of arts and recreation. "We want to do all we can to make this a successful governor's opener."

The GFO website "is now all about Park Rapids," Carol Altpeter of Explore Minnesota told the group.

Nearly 2,000 raffle tickets have been sold for the Crestliner boat package, valued at $27,900, and Smokey Hills Outdoor Store Ice Castle icehouse, a $15,500 value, both donated. A goal is to raise $70,000 to $80,000 through raffle ticket sales.

The schedule for the 2013 event, to be held May 9-13, includes registration from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday and continuing throughout the day Friday.

Friday provides an opportunity to "showcase the community," an activities coordinator for the day yet to be named. The plan calls for Park Rapids itself and the outlying area's attributes to be highlighted.

The DNR and COLA are expected "to be a large part of this."

Live radio show broadcasts are scheduled from 5 to 10 a.m. Friday.

"Fun activities" are being planned throughout the day, including a kids fishing program.

A free community picnic and family activities from 4 to 7:30 p.m. is on Friday's agenda, with Gov. Mark Dayton arriving for a 4 p.m. program. Serving begins after the program.

The Park Rapids Downtown Business Association and the Rotary and Lions clubs are on board for the event, with the rejuvenation of Main street the focus.

An estimated 3,500 guests are expected for dinner.

Pairing of guests and fishing hosts begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday with 110 hosts being sought to take media and sponsors out fishing on area lakes.

Hosts do not provide lodging, Jason Durham explained, just boats. "We are not recruiting professional guides. This is not a tournament," he emphasized, but plaques will be awarded for the biggest walleye and northern caught.

Boats must be Coast Guard certified and hosts provide gear. Fishing hosts and guests may fish on any lake in the area, but a shore lunch for hosts and media will be held on Fish Hook.

Fishing host applications can be found on the Chamber website.

Fishing dominates Saturday's schedule with breakfast from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and registration from 6 to 9 a.m.

The shore lunch for hosts and media runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The fishing challenge ends at 4 p.m. followed by a reception and dinner at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., respectively, for media and officials.

Preliminary plans call for the Armory as a possible site for the dinner. Vintage photos of resorts and fishing adventures are being sought for a slide show during the dinner.

Publicity chair Butch DeLaHunt is compiling a flash drive to give media a "snippet" of what Park Rapids "is all about." Photos and stories are needed to showcase "the nation's vacationland," including Main street, hiking, biking, resorts, ATV experiences - and loons.

Volunteer opportunities are numerous and varied.

Information is available through the Chamber and at www.parkrapids.com.

The next GFO planning meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Northern Pines Camp on CSAH 1.

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