Pat Hilton of Texas has never been in Minnesota during the winter season until now. And of all things to do in the state at this time, she chose to sit outside in the cold all day Saturday for the 10th Annual Brainerd Jaycee's $100,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
Hilton's friends loaned her their spare clothes to keep warm for the occasion. She owns sweatshirts, but not the heavy duty winter gear needed for a day in Minnesota during the winter months.
"It was a collaborative effort," she said. "Minnesotans are a lot warmer than their weather."
Hilton said the coldest the state of Texas ever drops to is around 15 degrees, and that only lasts three days. When she left her hometown, it was 80 degrees.
The Texas native has also never been ice fishing before, so this contest was quite an experience. It also was the first time she ever walked on the ice.
"It was a little slippery, but I found that walking on the white crunchy stuff is much easier," she said.
Hilton's friends explained how to ice fish and she is excited about the adventure.
"I plan to have a very good time," she said. "I hope to catch a fish. It would be so neat if I caught one, even if it is very small."
Hilton came out with her friend, Larry Vernia. He has traveled to Brainerd for the last four years to ice fish, so he knows what to expect with the weather.
So far, he has not caught a fish. He did get a nibble once and hopes to catch one this year. But year after year, he continues to come out and compete in the contest just because he has a lot of fun.
"It's fun just to be a part of the crowd," he said. "It's a spectacle. Minnesota sure knows how to party and have a great time."
Thousands of anglers traveled to the lakes area for the annual event.
Many first timers joined the crowd of anglers. The weather was around eight degrees in the morning with a few flurries, but most everyone was prepared.
Tony Sarff and Scott Nelson of St. Cloud have been competing in the contest for six years. This year they brought out two first-timers, Mike Benoit of St. Cloud and Dan Ridge of Clearwater. Both are excited and hopeful for a catch.
"I have an aspiration to catch the big one," said Benoit.
The group came out early to get the spot they wanted and then waited for the game to begin.
"It's a holiday for us," says Nelson. "It's a time for us guys to get together and have fun."
In the six years Sarff and Nelson have come to the extravaganza, the coldest the weather ever dropped to was 10 to 20 below. So, this year it was a treat for them. "This is nice weather," Sarff said.
Dean Grant of St. Michael has ice fished in the extravaganza every year except one. This year he brought his 15-year-old son, Jeff. They both enjoy ice fishing and Grant says Gull Lake is known to have fish in it so it is one of his top spots to fish.
Grant has not caught a fish yet and at this point he will take anything that takes a bite on his line.
"I just want to catch a fish," he said.
Jeff wanted to go this year to take a shot at winning a snowmobile.
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