WADDINGTON Excitement could be found on land and water Thursday as the Bassmaster Elite Series fishing tournament, featuring the top 99 anglers in the country, opened in conjunction with a huge festival.
At least 120 vendors set up booths and welcomed participants and tourists from across the country at the Tastes and Talents of the North Country Festival organized by the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
Event volunteer Jillian M. Roberts said the festival and tournament have taken more than a year of planning and cooperation among state and local officials and organizations.
There is a lot to do, Ms. Roberts said. Its tiring, and it takes a toll, especially in the heat, but the excitement of this event keeps me going. This is our first festival. There are many things were looking to change and learn from this time around. We know if we do this right, there is a big chance well get to host a tournament again, she said.
The festival is the largest ever put on by a host community, said Christopher Bowes, director of the Bassmaster Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown. The tournament runs through Sunday.
Ms. Roberts said she is not worried about reeling in the crowds.
Weve got a good crowd out here today, but Friday and Saturday are going to be the biggest days, she said Thursday. The main stage area will be full with people cheering on their favorite anglers during weigh-ins. Were also going to have big headliners, Bucky Covington and Jason Michael Carroll. Theres something for everyone.
The excitement of the tournament hit the vendors who left their booths to watch the weigh-ins.
With all the bright colors and big boats, this tournament has even attracted people who arent even interested in fishing, Josh A. Amo said. Its really got peoples attention.
Mr. Amo, who manages Seaway Valley Jumpers, welcomed the opportunity to set up his bounce houses at the festival.
Were more than happy to put a smile on kids faces, Mr. Amo said. Plus, who wouldnt want to be a part of this? This is an exciting thing for our local economy. Ive seen boats at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores. Thats really going to help us.
Upon hearing about the tournament, friends Michael S. Stoner Jr., John J. Dinneen, Darrin J. Green, Joseph Putney and Michael A. LeClair, all of Waddington, decided to capitalize by making and selling St. Lawrence River, Waddington, New York T-shirts.
The shirts were designed by Mr. Green.
We thought it would be a great idea to display our local talent and show our support to the community, Mr. LeClair said. We support all the businesses here, and we wanted to show a little hometown pride.
The group of friends came up with the idea almost as soon as the tournament was announced. They made up more than 500 T-shirts, and Mr. Stoner says he will have no problem selling all of them.
I love fishing; its such a community activity up here, Mr. Stoner said Thursday. I took my son to the launch this morning to watch the anglers take off. It was a wild sight to see all those boats in the water.