Gov. Mark Dayton will fish at the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake Jan. 22, — the first governor to attend the popular event.
Last year, the 20th Extravaganza attracted more than 10,000 anglers to Gull Lake’s Hole-in-Day Bay.
Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, said Friday that Dayton’s appearance will help promote the event, attract Twin Cities media and indirectly help out the nonprofit agencies that benefit from the contest.
“The governor sees it as an opportunity to highlight tourism and the jobs tourism brings,” Ward said. “I’ve watched the governor in a number of public events. This governor ... he wants to touch base with the people.”
Ward, who said he has fished the event many times, said he expects the governor to fish with him and his group of family and friends. He noted that this year, the event falls on his son’s birthday.
“I’ve never won it, but I plan on winning it this year,” Ward said.
Ward said Dayton told House DFLers to let him know about big events in their district where he could greet people.
“He stood in line at the inaugural ball for five hours to shake every hand.” Ward said.
Roberta Jay, chairwoman of the ice fishing contest, said she was excited about the governor’s plans to fish at Hole-in-the-Day Bay. Both she and Steve Jobe, past chairman of the tournament, and Lisa Paxton, CEO of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, credited Ward with persuading the governor to travel to Gull Lake.
“John Ward has the magic connection to make this happen,” Paxton said.
Jay said that if the governor’s visit can increase media exposure and get the word out to more people, that can only be positive for the event. She said Dayton’s interest in attending is a credit to the event’s volunteers and to the Jaycees.
“The Jaycees are proud of the Extravaganza and the economic impact it has on the community each year and how it’s put the Brainerd area on the map for winter tourism,” Jay said.
Jobe said the governor’s appearance would spark renewed interest in the tournament and help the Jaycees further tap into the Twin Cities market.
Paxton said officials are still trying to confirm his exact schedule but plans call for him to buy his fishing license at S and W Bait Shop near Gull Lake and possibly take part in a tourism roundtable. She said the ice fishing tournament is great venue for the governor .
“He will have no shortage of hands to shake,” Paxton said.
The Brainerd area officials who worked to help arrange the governor’s appearance maintained that media attention will spike this year.
“I would guess anything the governor does the press is going to follow,” Ward said.
“I think that everything the new governor does is of interest to the media and it’s wonderful he’s coming,” Paxton said.
The Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza started in 1990 and is believed to be the largest ice fishing event in the world, according to a news release from the House DFL Media. The event officially runs from noon to 3 p.m. All of the proceeds are donated to more than 50 area charities.
MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.