Up until last year, Maine’s Youth Fish & Game Association staged an annual fund-raising auction and dinner that drew nice crowds, but sometimes got lost in the shuffle.
The banquet was held during the fall, when outdoors-minded folks were out on moose hunts, scouting for deer season, bird hunting or just enjoying the final (more or less) temperate days of the year.
A year ago, club officers moved the banquet to the less cluttered spring season, and decided to stage the event after the sporting show season, and before many Mainers feel obligated to open up camps or spend much time fishing.
The decision was a good one.
“We had about 300 people and raised over $15,000 [last year], our biggest year ever,” banquet chairman Travis Roy said Saturday night. “We packed this place.”
On Saturday, the MYFGA went back to “this place,” the Old Town Elks Lodge, and again came close to packing it with kids and adults who support its mission of promoting traditional outdoor activities for youths.
Many of the event’s attendees walked away with a door prize or an auction item and, even before the cash started rolling in, Roy said the night was going to be another huge success.
“This is a good, healthy crowd, and they’re showing a lot of interest in the auction items already,” Roy said, as attendees cleared their dinner dishes and previewed the goods up for bid. “I’d say it’s going to be a good night.”
It was, in a number of ways.
But don’t assume Roy and his colleagues were overly fixated on the bottom line.
“I don’t measure the night by dollars,” Roy said. “You get a good meal, good turnout, good people, all like-minded, and a lot of kids here, having fun.”
The event featured some auction items that only kids could bid on. All of the youth attendees ended up leaving with a door prize.
One lucky child walked away with a free kayak.
And one received a hard-earned prize that he’ll never forget.
Nathan Robichaud, an 11-year-old from Milford, was on hand to learn that he’d won an essay contest that was run entirely by MYFGA’s youth board of directors.
The prize: A lifetime fishing license.
The essay question: What fishing means to me.
Robichaud’s grandmother, Maggie Conary, answered questions about the winning essay for her grandson, who smiled widely, but didn’t really want to talk to the media.
“He’s very shy,” his grandmother explained.
“I think basically [he wrote], even though he’s in a wheelchair, that is one sport that he can enjoy with everybody else and do,” Conary said. “And even though he’s in a wheelchair, while he’s fishing he thinks he looks around and sees more of nature, and the birds and animals.”
Robichaud did eventually answer a couple of questions. … briefly … with a smile on his face.
His favorite part of fishing?
“Catching fish,” he said.
And his reaction to winning a prize that means he never has to buy a fishing license in the state of Maine?
“Pretty good,” he allowed.
Cameron DePaolo, a 13-year-old from Milford, finished second in the contest and took home a $100 package consisting of a rod and reel and a gift certificate to the Old Town Trading Post.
For the record, the MYFGA topped its previous record and took in more than $16,000 Saturday night, including a $3,000 donation from the Penobscot County Conservation Association.
The money will certainly help the club, which owns a clubhouse on Pickerel Pond near Milford and offers various outdoor opportunities throughout the year.
And while raising money was the stated purpose of the event, Roy would again tell you it wasn’t the only reason to attend.
“It’s a family event,” Roy said, before kids started proving his point by scampering up to the prize table, where they received bicycles and fishing rods and a kayak — just for showing up.
That was also before adults began eagerly bidding on a canoe, art, a quilt, loam … yes, loam… and dozens of other cool Maine products.
Just another family event for a family-friendly organization.
Turkey zone meeting set
Wild turkey hunters who live in Down East Maine may want to head to Harrington on Thursday for an important public meeting that could affect them.
Albion Goodwin, a member of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s advisory council, has requested that parts of Wildlife Management Districts 27 and 28 be opened to wild turkey hunting.
DIF&W biologists and staff members will be on hand to make presentations on the proposal. They will also answer questions and listen to input from the public.
The meeting will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Harrington Elementary School.
According to a DIF&W press release, Goodwin’s proposal calls for opening parts of WMDs 27 and 28 to turkey hunting. The Machias River (as far as Route 9) would be one boundary line. The existing WMD boundary lines to the west would be observed.
Wildlife Management Districts 27 and 28 stretch all the way to the Canadian border on the east, and as far west as Gouldsboro, Sullivan, Mariaville, part of Ellsworth and Clifton.
According to current laws, only 17 of the state’s 29 WMDs are open to turkey hunting during the popular spring season. In addition, there are fall turkey seasons in 10 WMDs. Districts 27 and 28 are completely closed to turkey hunting.