From Aug. 8 to 11, it was Waddingtons time to bask in the limelight.
Like the crafty fishermen who poured into their community from far and wide, Waddington officials used the right bait to lure their prey and the catch was huge! They served as the host site for the Bassmaster Elite Series fishing tournament, and the show was superb.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown on the St. Lawrence River attracted 34,100 people to Waddington and surrounding communities, which set an attendance record for the Bassmaster Elite Series. The previous record for the four-day event was 33,650, set earlier this year in Orange, Texas.
Waddington residents as well as their elected officials, public safety personnel, representatives of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and members of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators are among those who deserve credit for pulling this event off. This was a major victory for this region, and the numbers show how popular the north country can be for recreational fishing when adequate resources are used.
There was some irony, though, when it turned out that the winner of the tournaments $100,000 prize Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho spent his time driving his boat about 100 miles to fish in Lake Ontario. Other participants did their fishing farther south in the Thousand Islands region rather than in St. Lawrence County.
It appears that the tournaments largess was shared with many establishments in both Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, while the event was funded solely with St. Lawrence revenues.
Frankly, this is to be expected. People participating in and attending a major event like this will go where they please and spend their money as they see fit. Its not like anyone can prohibit other communities in other counties from benefitting as a result of such a huge attraction.
But this could lead to productive discussions about broader cooperation between local counties in bringing significant events to the north country. Those who helped organize the Bassmaster Elite Series in Waddington have invited the Thousand Islands International Tourism Council to join FishCap, a campaign to encourage fishing in the St. Lawrence River Valley.
Begun in 2010, FishCap has so far limited its promotion to sites in St. Lawrence County. This is because its funding has come only from St. Lawrence County resources.
This is the kind of cross-county cooperation needed to revive the economy in Northern New York. By sharing resources and responsibilities, the people of both Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties could reap greater rewards.
Its time to find ways to engage in practices that enhance the entire region. This can be done among private organizations as well as governmental agencies.
Resources must be shared if we are to continue enjoying the quality of life we have in the north country. Joining forces to bring more fishing events is just the beginning. This will hopefully lead to cooperative efforts to improve public safety, health care and other vital services upon which so many people depend.
Community leaders need to toss their nets our farther and begin talking about achieving common goals. The best way to do this will be to split the workload and spread around what you have so others throughout the region may profit.