As the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza continues to grow in attendance and monies raised for charities, the Minnesota Office of Tourism has noted its success.
Tuesday night at the Brainerd Elks Club the Office of Tourism presented the Jaycees with the "Event and Festival Award of the Year." The award is prestigious because it is non-competitive and not handed out every year, said Carol Altepeter of the Office of Tourism, who presented the award to Suzette Bush of the Brainerd/Baxter Lodging Association and five past chairs of the ice fishing contest.
"I don't think there is an event in Minnesota that does more to promote tourism in the winter," Altepeter said. "The organizers of this event and its supporters go over and beyond the call of duty. It has a huge impact on tourism."
Indeed, 76 percent of the people who fish the contest come from more than 60 miles away, Altepeter said. "Last year when the dates were changed we saw the impact it had on travel to this area," she added.
The award was first presented to the Jaycees on Jan. 29 at the Governor's Tourism Conference but was kept secret until Tuesday night so that area supporters could revel in the moment, said Bob Slaybaugh, ice fishing contest promoter.
Kim Reese, Jaycees president, said the award was a wonderful surprise.
"A lot of people put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work to make the contest happen," Reese said. "It's not just the Jaycees but a lot of people in the community as well. It's become a total community event."
It was a memorable night for Confidence Learning Center as well. Following the presentation of the Event and Festival Award of the Year, the Jaycees presented Camp Confidence with a check for $144,515.28, the largest single donation in camp history. A loud round of applause accompanied the presentation.
In other business, Brian Lindberg was elected chair of the 2004 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
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