Nestor Falls reeling in bid for fishing town crown

Dan Falloon

There’s a buzz around Nestor Falls in the World Fishing Network’s “Ultimate Fishing Town” contest.
The local community sat in second place as of press time yesterday, nowgwithin 1,000 votes of leader Port Alberni, B.C. after surging past Dauphin, Man. over the weekend.
Port Alberni was nearing 34,500 votes while Nestor Falls had just crossed the 33,500-ballot barrier.
“When we passed Dauphin on the weekend, I’d never gotten so many calls or e-mails in my life,” enthused Maureen Hanson, who put forth the town’s initial nomination back in July.
“That’s kind of when it started to really balloon.”
When voting in the championship round kicked off last week, Nestor Falls was running third for the first few days until the weekend surge.
Nestor Falls finished third overall in the preliminary round, when it faced off against other Ontario communities to qualify for the final round, garnering well over 10,000 votes.
However, the town has seen a much-needed spike in support for the Top 10 round.
Voting will continue until 4 p.m. (local time) on Sept. 28
The winner of a $25,000 community donation and 30-minute special on the World Fishing Network will be announced in October.
Voters can cast a ballot once every 12 hours per valid e-mail address.
“We just need to get the word out that people need to keep voting as often as they’re able to,” stressed Hanson, of Hanson’s Hideaway Lodge & Getaway North Outposts.
One message she wanted to make clear is that even though Nestor Falls is listed on the ballot, a vote for her community is a vote for Northwestern Ontario since the TV special will help bring positive notice that the region is a quality fishing hub.
“The exposure for our area has been absolutely priceless,” Hanson enthused. “We’ve not had to do any advertising to get our region out there.
“We’re the face of the region,” she noted.
Earlier in the contest, Hanson had offered to take in e-mail addresses of those who were unable to vote. But that call was so successful that she now is encouraging supporters to take responsibility for their own votes unless there is no other way they can cast the ballot.
“We’ve had a lot of that. Our problem now is that we’re getting so many that we physically can’t get them entered every 12 hours,” she explained.
“Our message now is please, please vote your own vote if you possibly can.
“If you can’t do it at all, we’ll definitely do what we can to get them voted,” she added.
“We definitely don’t want to leave any votes on the table, that’s for sure.”
Hanson has so many e-mail addresses that she’s lost count of how many she and other volunteers are inputting.
With Nestor Falls, a community of about 300, so close to overtaking the lead, Hanson is looking for small pockets of support to come out of the woodwork and slightly increase the rate of support.
“If they try to at least vote their own e-mail address, and if they have other e-mail addresses that they have permission to vote—two or three per household—that’ll make all the difference for us,” she urged.
“We’re just looking for those few extra to put us over the hump and keep us there.
“We need as little as about 10 e-mails an hour,” Hanson stressed. “If we could increase by that, we could take and sustain the lead.”
Hanson is confident that Nestor Falls is on pace to grab the lead, but warned against any feelings of complacency despite the great success so far.
“Once we do take the lead—I know we’re going to take the lead—but we’re going to have to broaden the lead once we get there,” she argued.
“When people see us surging ahead, they get excited and they want to vote. But once we get there, we also need them to keep just voting and not just stop.”
Dana Jones, who hails from the Bay Area in California but lives in Nestor Falls for about five months of the year, has been one of the volunteers typing in address after address in an attempt to boost the town.
“My husband and I have been voting 200 votes every couple of hours and then we’ll take a 500-vote kit every couple of days,” Jones explained.
“We’re into this,” she stressed. “We really want Nestor Falls to win. This is such a big deal.
“I’m over here every day giving Maureen pep talks because she’s been doing all the work,” Jones added.
Even though she is “not much of a fisherwoman,” and opts more for canoeing and swimming, Jones raved about the community’s commitment to fishing, which tends to permeate local culture.
“They’re the best lakes in the area,” she opined. “Lake of the Woods is fabulous fishing.
“Every guy in town is a fishing guide and they love their jobs,” she added. “That’s what sold me on it.
“These guys here absolutely rave about the fishing.”
Jones said the community’s enthusiasm for the WFN contest has spread like wildfire from a small, dedicated number to becoming the top water-cooler topic around town.
“There’s been just a hardcore group of people that were voting, but once people start talking to other people and find out how many hours people are putting in, they’re like, ‘Oh, really? How can I help?’” Jones noted.
“‘Call Maureen up. She has another list she can pass out.’
“It’s command central right here at Hanson’s.”
Hanson agreed, noting a sense of solidarity around town.
“[In] the grocery store or the hardware store or the bait shop or anything, people are talking about it,” she remarked.
“There’s a spring in everybody’s step and a smile on their face.
“We’re excited about it and anyone that’s in town is excited about it.”
Hanson also has seen support extend past provincial and even national borders, rallying friends and family members from across the continent to boost Nestor Falls’ totals.
“It’s come from the U.S., it’s come from both coasts,” she noted.
“I have people voting even on the west coast, even though Port Alberni is in it. They’re wanting to support Nestor Falls.
“It’s definitely coming from all over.”
After the Manitoba government threw its support behind Dauphin on the weekend, offering to match the $25,000 prize, Jones hoped the Ontario government, or at least anyone capable of spreading the word outside of Northwestern Ontario, would take the opportunity to do so.
“Could we have a little more press further out than just Lake of the Woods and Kenora?” she requested.
“We need to spread it out.
“It would make a wonderful thing to say Ontario won this,” she concluded.
For more information or to volunteer to enter votes, call Hanson at 1-888-383-5674.