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Fishing Opener plans move ahead

The new year has arrived and the Governor's Fishing Opener committee is moving full steam ahead for the May 9-13 event on the Fish Hook chain of lakes.

Approximately 200 members of the press - radio, television, magazine, Internet and newspaper - are expected to descend on Park Rapids lakes country - along with the governor, lieutenant governor and other dignitaries.

Businesses, organizations and a cadre of volunteers, will be rolling out the red carpet.

The event will spotlight not only the area's pristine lakes, with fish of all species, but the hiking and biking trails, resorts, golf courses, Itasca State Park, restaurants, unique businesses and all the other amenities that make residents proud to call this area home, Chamber director Katie Magozzi said.

The Fish Hook chain of lakes was chosen because the Fish Hook River is the focal point of Park Rapids, event chair Dennis Mackedanz said. Highway 71 provides access to the four lakes and it heads up to Itasca State Park.

The preliminary schedule of events for the attendees arriving Thursday includes tours of Itasca State Park, Park Rapids' fish hatchery and the Black Swan Cooperage.

Then it's off to dinner in Dorset. Up to 200 GFO participants will dine as guests of Compañeros, Dorset House and LaPasta Thursday evening, shuttle buses transporting them from Park Rapids.

Friday also calls for showcasing the area, as well as inviting the community to dinner that evening.

Live radio broadcasts begin early Friday morning, with Gov. Mark Dayton scheduled to host a radio show from 9 to 10 a.m.

A proposed activities schedule calls for broad-ranging choices for the media and officials to experience.

Guests will be invited to play a game of golf at Headwaters Country Club from 8 a.m. to noon or embark on a tour of area resorts via shuttle bus from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Park Rapids fourth graders will drop a line at Northern Pines Retreat Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Participants may head to Itasca via shuttle for a full tour of Minnesota's premiere state park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or learn of the seasonal fish hatchery on the Fish Hook River during morning tours.

Park Rapids restaurateurs will offer GFO participants a Bite of Park Rapids from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Up to 25 can sign up for the Character Challenge Course's team-building initiatives from 1 to 2:30 p.m. A tour of the Black Swan Cooperage is also an option for guests from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Then it's off to Park Rapids' Main Avenue.

Sponsors and organizations (who have five members volunteering for GFO activities) will set up informational booths and host activities on the first and second blocks of Main from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Musicians will enliven the event.

Gov. Dayton is expected to step up to the microphone at 4 p.m., followed by the everyone's-welcome community picnic.

Approximately 2,500 people are expected for meal of pulled pork, Captain Ken's Firehouse Beans, a potato product (yet to be determined), Kemp's ice cream and beverages. Dinner will be served from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Musicians will entertain throughout the tented event on Second Street.

A guest-fishing host pairing meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m.

Activities continue until 8:30 p.m. with the heavens the focal point at 8:45 when fireworks soar skyward.

Saturday, fishing begins. The governor is reportedly apt to head out at midnight.

Live radio broadcasts will keep listeners appraised of activity.

A shore lunch will be served guests from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with the fishing challenge concluding at 4 p.m.

A celebration reception and dinner will conclude the day.

Raffle tickets, now being sold at many area merchants' locations, will be available throughout the event. The drawing will be held at Saturday night's celebration dinner in Armory Square.

The purchase of the raffle ticket is not merely a chance to win two great prizes, Molly Luther of The Good Life Cafe points out. It's a show of support for the community and the gargantuan effort being put forth to showcase the area.

The grand prize is a 2013 1750 Raptor SC boat, the $27,900 vessel donated by Crestliner. Second prize, provided by Smokey Hills Outdoor Store, is an Ice Castle fish house, valued at $15,500.

Volunteers are welcome and appreciated, as are fishing hosts. Approximately 110 fishing hosts are being sought with 37 currently signed up.

Applications can be found on the Chamber website; simply click on Governor's Fishing Opener. Or head to the Chamber itself.

"Catch a memory!"