Holiday weekend fires up tourist season here

With 2,811 U.S. vehicles carrying some 7,269 passengers crossing into Canada here last Friday and Saturday for the walleye opener, you’d think the flood would cause at least a bit of chaos here.
Not in the least.
Like the seasoned tourist town Fort Frances is, local businesses took it all in stride. The only place seemingly affected by the influx of tourists was on the international bridge, where vehicles were backed up onto Highway 11 towards Ranier.
“They just breezed in here, got the new fishing regulations book, and asked the price of licences,” said Jane Johnstone of the Ontario Travel Information Centre here, usually the first place to be flooded with tourists entering Canada.
Their counter showed 338 people had stopped in for information Friday and Saturday.
“They also were happy that their exchange was up–a lot of them didn’t even know that,” Johnstone added.
Mark Fontana, owner of Rainy Lake Sports in the east end, said opening weekend was a busy one for his store, more so than this time last year, but not the near what he expects to see during the upcoming U.S. long weekend.
While most U.S. visitors drove on to their favourite fishing spots, a handful of them headed for local aircraft charters and the fly-in lakes.
“Everything has been good so far,” said Vic Davis, owner of Northern Wilderness Outfitters, which flew out around 200 guests over the weekend.
He expected to nearly double that number this weekend.
“We did have to wait for parties due to the one hour [delay] on the bridge but other than that, we weren’t really affected [by the rush],” added Angie Korzinski of Rusty Myers’ Flying Service.
In related news, in celebration of Tourism Week (May 19-26), the Ontario Travel Information Centre here will hold an open house this Friday (May 26) starting at noon.
Joe Spina, parliamentary assistant to Tourism minister Cam Jackson, is slated to be on hand, as well as NDP leader Howard Hampton and Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.