Saturday, May 19, 2012

25 years of Get Hooked on Fishing

Saturday and Sunday, May 5th and 6th, marked the 25th year for the annual learn-to-fish derby for kids under 16 titled "Get Hooked on Fishing." This hugely successful and popular event held at the City of Poughkeepsie's unique urban fishery on 17 Creek Road was planned and organized all twenty-five years by Ken and Cheryl Rose who live just up the road from Morgan Lake. This husband and wife (in the center of the picture below) make a great team. Their close friends and family members have provided them each year with support in a variety of ways. At this years event, I had a chance to see just how dedicated both the Roses and their friends and family are to making the fishing derby an enjoyable and memorable experience for families.
Ken Rose not only invited me to the 25th Annual Get Hooked on Fishing derby, but provided me with a table under the registration tent. It was truly an honor to be provided with an opportunity to be part of this event. When I arrived on Saturday morning I greeted Ken and quickly set up the table. I then forcibly entered a battle against the wind, which was determined to wipe all of my handouts and business cards off the table. After picking everything up, I set out on what became a 2 hour long tour around the lake. I stopped and talked to every family I passed on Saturday. I carried a clipboard and encouraged people to sign their name and email address, phone number, or mailing address onto a sheet of lined paper so that they could be notified of upcoming clean-up days at Morgan Lake. 95 people signed the clipboard sheet on Saturday. When I made my way back around the lake to the table Ken set up for me, my mouth was dry. I love to talk, but that was the first time I ever spoke to 95 people in a row in 2 hours!

So many of the people I spoke with expressed to me how important both Morgan Lake and this event is to them. One woman said that she and her family came up from Florida one year to visit relatives in the area and by luck they were here while the Get Hooked on Fishing derby was being held. They had such a great time that for years now they have come up from Florida to visit their relatives around the first weekend in May just so that they can attend the derby. This story really shows that this event is a family tradition. I also spoke with one of the volunteers, Matthew Miller, who has been involved with Get Hooked on Fishing for 18 years. Now 23, he was a participant in the event from the age of 5 to 15, and since the age of 16 he has been a volunteer at the event. He said that he loved the event as a child, and now loves to volunteer at the event because he knows that it means so much to the families that participate in it, as well as the people who organize it.  

When I returned to the lake on Sunday, I decided to move the table from the registration tent to the hot dog and snack tent set up near the permanent restroom. An announcement was made by Bill Conners through the speakers to inform people about my project and encourage them to head to the table. Although I didn't speak to as many people on Saturday as I did on Sunday, I found out that who I spoke to was equally important to the number. Among the people that stopped by the table were Michael Minter, a talented local magician, and his wife. They both gave me some great ideas for planning community events at Morgan Lake. I look forward to working with both of them in the future on event planning. I also spoke with Jennifer McGahan President of Office of Community Research who informed me that there are several grants that I could apply for so that events can continue at Morgan Lake. Hopefully I will get a chance to use my research and writing skills in the grant application process in the near future.

While this may have been the last year for Get Hooked on Fishing, Ken and Cheryl plan to maintain an active role in helping spread the word throughout the community that Morgan Lake is a great urban fishery. One way they hope to achieve this is by having fishing clinics at the lake. I believe that if everyone who was at the lake for the derby, as well as anyone else who visits Morgan Lake often is provided an opportunity to get together to brainstorm ways to keep Morgan Lake a lively place throughout the year, Get Hooked on Fishing won't have to be labeled as the most successful event that ended, but the most successful event that turned Morgan Lake into a annual weekend tradition of fun paving the way for it to become a year long tradition of fun through the planning of more community events.