The future of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, the most recognizable community festival in the district, depends on securing a new chairperson for the event.
Tom Fry, who has served as chairman for the past three years, is retiring. Fry has been an active volunteer and part of the tournament since its beginnings in 1995.
At this point, despite approaching many individuals, as well as advertising on the radio and in the newspaper, no replacement has come forward.
“The problem is simple—we do not have an incoming chair, plus there are vacancies at a number of important director positions,” Fry explained.
“At our most recent board meeting, we decided to wind up the tournament if we could not secure a chairperson by the end of October.
“Shutting down the tournament due to a lack of a chairperson and directors would truly be a real loss,” Fry added.
“Although we have a strong group of directors returning, without a new leader in charge and a full board to share all the work, we cannot continue planning for the 2011 event,” Fry stressed.
Fry said this is a “serious crisis.”
“Without a new chairperson and a complete board, the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship will be history,” he warned.
In its 16 years, more than 100 individuals have served on the board and more than 500 volunteers have provided their services to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and community festival.
“It is a remarkable achievement in volunteerism,” said Fry.
“We have attracted volunteers from across North America, who joined with community members and district citizens to make this the most anticipated annual community event in the Rainy River District,” he noted.
The chair’s primary duties consist of running meetings, as well as co-ordinating and supporting the board of directors.
As a member of an active board, each director assumes responsibility for a specific aspect of the event.
Committees include angler registrations, bar operations, computer systems, daytime activities, finance, food court co-ordination, marketing, media relations, nighttime entertainment, recording secretary, site and facilities, sponsor relations, tournament operations, and volunteer co-ordination.
The 2010 board pulled off a remarkable feat in moving the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship from the waterfront to the Memorial Sports Centre.
Anglers enjoyed the move that quickened the weigh-in while spectators enjoyed watching the weigh-ins from elevated seating.
“The good news is the expertise of the returning and already committed new directors,” observed Fry. “We have a solid group with the knowledge and experience to advise and guide new board members.
“We plan to implement a ‘buddy system,’ whereby new directors would be paired with returning or former board members, creating a mentorship situation to ensure support and continuity,” he explained.
“This would help to eliminate the usual need for experience in these important positions.”
An information meeting is scheduled for next Thursday (Oct. 21) at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs board room at the Ice For Kids Arena, at which all interested volunteers will be given an overview of board structure, event operations, vacant director positions, basic job qualifications, and time commitment required.
If you are interested in seeing the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship continue, we invite you to attend.
Members of the board will be available to answer all your questions.
“I would like to see one or two local competing or retired anglers attend the meeting,” Fry remarked.
“There is no problem with conflict of interest,” he stressed. “Competitors serving as directors would be given a ‘leave of absence’ during tournament week and, most importantly, would bring a fresh, ongoing perspective to board deliberations and decisions.”
Fry said the situation is an opportunity for a new board of directors to build on a strong 16-year history, and to keep and improve what has become the area’s signature event.
“It is time for the community to step up and save the bass tournament,” he stressed.