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Park Rapids to host 2013 Governor's Opener

Looking forward to the 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener are, from left, Bob Seifert, Chamber board chair; Katie Magozzi, Chamber president; Gov. Mark Dayton; Butch DeLaHunt, media chair, and Dennis Mackedanz, Governor's Fishing Opener chair. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
A serendipitous catch on a Park Rapids area lake led to the art for billboards that will be appearing in North Dakota in the next few days.2 / 2

Chamber exec Katie Magozzi had an eloquent speech planned when she took the stage to accept the honor of holding the 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener in the Park Rapids lakes area.

"It's a place where eagles soar, to smell fresh pines..." but a sob stopped her mid-sentence.

After four years of planning and presenting those plans to officials across the state, Hubbard County received a thumb's up from the Explore Minnesota tourism office.

"For once, I couldn't speak," she joked.

The governor and an entourage of staff and press will descend on Park Rapids Friday and Saturday, May 10-11 next year with lines to drop in the Fish Hook chain of lakes.

"We are very excited at the prospect for the Park Rapids lakes area," said Dennis Mackedanz, the Governor's Fishing Opener Task Force chair.

He and 8-year-old Macy Elfring, a friend's daughter from his hometown of Paynesville, will be appearing on billboards in North Dakota this week - holding a 27-inch walleye from an area lake.

"Memories are made by moments like these," he said of the impromptu catch, after running out of minnows.

The Park Rapids logo colors are rusty red, symbolizing red pine, and blue, representing the hundreds of lakes in the area. The motto: Catch a memory.

"I'm very excited for the city and the region," Mackedanz said.

The entire lakes area will be engaged in rolling out the red carpet for the event that will require about 300 volunteers.

The corps of Park Rapids reps heading down to Waconia, this year's site, saw the positive impact the event has on a community, he said of the press coverage and the number of decision makers who arrived, providing an opportunity for dialogue.

"It is fantastic," agrees Kellie Sites, Waconia Chamber president and event planner.

The goal was to put Waconia on the map, she said of the city located just 30 miles south of Target Field.

"People were over the moon," she said of both the media's response and "community pride" the event evoked.

"Most of the businesses broke records," she said of the local shops' sales in the city of 10,680 people.

More than 4,300 pulled-pork sandwiches were served at the community picnic. A dip in the mercury prevented them from running out of food, she said of the crowd dispersing when a cold front moved in about 6:30 p.m.

Approximately 7,200 raffle tickets were sold for the boat drawing - provided by Crestliner - raising over $36,000, Sites said.

"Great, generous sponsors" helped to fund the $300,000 endeavor, she said. All food was donated and the two "gigantic tents" were provided at low cost by sponsors.

"Start stocking walleye now" is her advice. Gov. Mark Dayton was unable to lure a lunker. "But he was so gracious," she said.

"There were so many emotional and exciting moments," Sites said Monday of the preceding weekend.

And as seed money, Waconia handed the Park Rapids ambassadors a check for $1,000.

Now work begins for the 66th annual Governor's Fishing Opener, the Park Rapids area touted by the AP as home to Itasca State Park, the Heartland Trail, the Lake County Scenic Byway and the Chippewa National Forest.

The Chamber will begin recruiting 110 "non-professional" guides. Partnerships will form with area organizations, businesses and lodging. Youth groups are welcome as volunteers.

Banners will welcome guests to the area known for its lakes, millions of acres of forests and recreational trails.

Letters will soon be in the mail, seeking sponsorships.

"We've heard nothing but positive," Magozzi said of the area's response. "It creates community unification. "Waconia's lawns were mowed, flowers were out...they deserved it."

"It's an opportunity to showcase the community and its culture," Mackedanz said. Tours of the area are on the agenda.

"This will be the stuff of legend," Magozzi predicts. "The community's ready," said of the event following six years of major road construction, infrastructure work and the downtown revitalization. "Community involvement and strong volunteerism are a Park Rapids lakes area tradition.

"A unifying sense of pride will permeate the entire region," she forecasts.

  To volunteer for the 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener, stop by the Chamber, call 732-4111 or e-mail katie Committees are now forming.

Catch a memory!