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Decoy carvers put their talents on display

Dennis Bertram of Belgrade, Minn. had a wide array of decoys displayed during Saturday's Decoy Carvers Show. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

The 19th Annual Decoy Carver Show put on by the Park Rapids Chapter of Minnesota Darkhouse & Angling Association (MDAA) as a fundraiser for the Community Fish House was held this past Saturday at the American Legion.

The Park Rapids Area Community Fish House is celebrating it's eighth year on the ice. The 16-foot Ice Castle is located on Fish Hook Lake each year; it is fully furnished and wheelchair accessible. The house is maintained by the efforts of volunteers that keep it heated and ready for anglers that would love the opportunity to fish during the winter months but may not have the means to do so, such as senior citizens or disabled individuals.

According to Secretary of the Park Rapids MDAA, Dean Hanisch, this year, vendor participation was down from past years. Typically the fundraiser draws 25 to 30 participants, however, this year there were only 18 vendors. Hanisch attributed the drop in participation to the Annual St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show held this past weekend in St. Paul as well.

"We had a pretty good turnout overall though. Our ticket sales were good and we had quite a few people from the community come out to show their support," Hanisch said about monies received from selling raffle tickets, as well as holding a silent auction.

Among the vendors was a wide array of fish decoy carvers from places like Park Rapids, Perham, Brainerd and Belgrade among other places throughout the region.

"There's a lot of talent here," Hanisch said about his impression of the decoys. "I've got to buy a couple every year."

The age range of carvers varied as well. Some young, some old, but of those attending the event all agreed that all of the carvers were very talented.

Levi Raddatz, 18, of Brainerd, has only been carving decoys for the past three years. His enthusiasm for the hobby began when his high school offered decoy carving as an art class. From there his talent grew and now he sometimes sells his decoys for close to $300.

Raddatz has won several awards including this past year when he won Minnesota Fishing Museum Fish Decoy Junior Carver of the Year for his Northern Pike decoy.

According to Raddatz, it will typically take him five days or more to fully complete a decoy.

"It's just something fun to do in my spare time," he said. Carving is a hobby for him and he is currently learning to become a diesel mechanic at Central Lakes College in Staples.

Raddatz was among one of the younger carvers while Dennis Bertram of Belgrade, Minn. is one of the more seasoned veterans to the annual show.

Bertram said he has been spear fishing for over 45 years and he began carving his own fish decoys nearly 40 years ago.

He doesn't know how long it takes him to make one of his decoys stating, "I never make one start to finish."

Plaques were given to first, second and third place winners for the 2016 Carver of the Year. In the Working Class Division first place was awarded to Gary Hull of Williams, Minn., second place was awarded to Dennis Bertram of Belgrade, Minn while third place went to Levi Raddatz of Brainerd. In the Collectible Class Division first place went to Paul Sparks of Wadena. Second place was awarded to Troy Helget of Kensington and Gary Hull of Williams took third. Best of Show was awarded to Troy Helget of Kensington.