Many fond memories of Rainy Lake

Founded in 1967 by Ray Scott in Montgomery, Ala., Birmingham, Ala. celebrated the 2010 Bassmaster Classic in record fashion.
For three days, the folks of Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Missouri journeyed to the heartland of bass fishing in America.
Everyone who was attending the actual Bassmaster show had to pass by our booth touting fort Frances and Rainy Lake on all three days. And on Friday night and Saturday night, the crowd was ushered back through the exhibitor space at the end of the show.
Attending our second Classic expo, Doug Cain and I were surprised by the number of visitors to our booth who have fond memories of fishing Rainy Lake and the Nestor Falls area of Rainy River District.
Many were former residents of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and southern Minnesota.
When they lived in those states, their summer vacations were spent in Rainy River District. Many had vacationed annually here for several years.
For Doug, Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce manager Anthony Mason, and I, taking time to listen to the stories from vacations in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s was time well spent with visitors to our booth.
Those former visitors to Rainy Lake were excited to enter a contest to win a trip to Campfire Island. One visitor remembered coming to that island as a guest of the company that owned it well before Wayne and Pat Howard reopened it.
It was a great opportunity to promote Rainy Lake, Fort Frances, and Rainy River District to potential visitors. Each day, we began our work at the show before 7 a.m. and the show didn’t close until 8 p.m.
The three of us did not see much of Birmingham, but we are left with good memories of people who were pleased to talk to us.
We were joined at the booth by Phil Bangert, who drove over from Camdenton, Mo. to assist us in the booth—and there isn’t a better salesperson for Rainy Lake and the region than Phil.
He was able to convince even the biggest doubter that the fishing and scenery in Rainy River District is second to none.
And with his connection to the professional angling tour, Phil spent a great deal of time working the floor talking to professional anglers, encouraging them to join him in fishing at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
As we flew into Birmingham last Wednesday, looking out the window on that clear night, the lights of communities seemed to run into each other from the time we overflew Memphis until we touched down at the airport.
Driving into the city, the names of cities that first caught my attention back in the 1960s returned as we passed the highway signs announcing turnoffs to head for Montgomery, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, and Tuskadee.
Montgomery came to America’s attention with the bus boycott in 1955.
Just up the street from our hotel, four young girls at the 16th street Baptist Church were killed in a bombing in 1963. We were advised by our cab driver that if we only saw one thing in Birmingham, we should take in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
We didn’t make it to the institute, but the good memories of Birmingham would make it a destination to stop at in the future.

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