Volunteers the real lifeline of bass tournament

The annual Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship provides plenty of fun for people of all ages, with games for kids, good food and drink, and, most importantly, some quality fishing.
But none of it would be possible without the tireless work of volunteers who commit time and energy every year behind the scenes, and the sponsors who continue to support the tournament despite the current economic downturn.
“The dedication from our volunteers and the community involvement from sponsors is absolutely critical,” FFCBC chairman Tom Fry stressed. “Without them, we couldn’t keep going.”
“Our sponsorships amount to somewhere between $40,000-50,000 in cash, and on top of that we have in-kind sponsorships of anything ranging from two weeks’ use of a forklift to donated door prizes,” Fry added.
“I think we estimated in-kind sponsorship to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100,000.”
Meanwhile, a study conducted by the Rainy River Future Development Corp. six years ago suggested the tournament injects between “$1.5 and $2 million” into the local economy when you consider people come back to town as spectators, and that many of the teams are from out of town and spend more than a week here staying in hotels and eating at local restaurants.
“That’s more or less what they figure is spent between teams,” Fry noted. “Keep in mind numbers are going back six years ago, but there’s also a number of people who come back to see it as spectators, as well.”
Whatever the total figure, the cash flow gives a much-needed boost to the local economy. That’s a no-brainer.
But despite the obvious positives to hosting the tournament, volunteers are in short supply during the “hangover”—after the bands pack up their equipment and the final fish are weighed, with the arduous task of tearing down the site still a necessary component to a successful tournament.
“The tournament volunteers continually stay the same, in the 250 range, which is good, and with set-up we had 40 to 50, but with teardown it’s been less than 20 just about every day,” Fry remarked.
The work of removing and cleaning up the site was left mostly up to FFCBC committee members and some young volunteers this year.
They still were out there late yesterday afternoon loading tables and equipment into trucks and cleaning up the site—a full three days removed from Saturday’s final weigh-in.
The more hands on deck, the better, and hopefully more will realize that this is a community-run event that needs support from start to finish.
If Bill Punshon can do it, so can you.
Punshon, 63, has been volunteering at the bass tournament every year since 2002 when he moved here from Toronto.
“I laid the map out on the table and chose Fort Frances,” Punshon noted. “I like fishing and I wanted to get away from the big rat race.”
Despite being diagnosed with throat cancer in December, 2007, which he undergoes treatment for once a month in Winnipeg, Punshon has continued to support the local tournament any way he can.
“They want me there to supervise everything now,” Punshon said. “I know the site well and I can help the newer people. But since I can’t do the heavy stuff, there’s no point in me being there now [for the teardown].”
So what’s kept him involved with the FFCBC despite the obvious obstacles standing in his way? He simply enjoys giving back to his adopted community and being a part of the town’s big event of the summer.
“You know, it’s just a lot of fun,” Punshon said matter-of-factly. “Through the years I’ve met a lot of the fishermen and it’s nice being a part of a big fishing event.”
• • •
Former Muskie Joe Basaraba recently was named as one of seven ‘A’ list Minnesota high school players released on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s “players to watch” list ahead of next June’s 2010 NHL entry draft.
Basaraba spend last season with the Shattuck St. Mary’s prep team based out of Faribault, Mn., where he recorded 20 goals and 24 assists in 54 games while accumulating 54 minutes in penalties.
Basaraba will be entering his senior year, and has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for the 2010-11 school year.
The 17-year-old’s teammate, Jason Clark, also was among those listed.
• • •
The Fort Frances Jr. Sabres continue to sell off their remaining on-ice assets.
Fort Frances native Kyle Turgeon has been sent to the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League for future considerations.
“It’s tough leaving [your] hometown behind and all the good stuff here, but at the same time, you don’t want the door shutting on you,” Turgeon said of the prospect of being without a place to play.
“[Portage is] a big hockey town and I’m excited to play there.”
Turgeon had 36 points for the Sabres in his final 27 games last season, including an 11-game point streak from Dec. 6-Jan. 22. He finished with 15 goals and 44 points in 45 games in his sophomore campaign with the squad.
He then recorded three goals and three assists in eight playoff games before the Sabres were bounced by the Thunder Bay Bearcats in the second round.
“He’s a guy that brings energy, skates well, and can play in all situations,” Terriers’ head coach and general manager Blake Spiller told the Portage Daily Graphic.
Turgeon billeted while with the Thunder Bay Kings when he was 15 so he’ll be prepared for that aspect of playing away from home. He said he’ll head there a few days prior to camp, which begins Aug. 29.
• • •
The Rainy River District Fastball League’s annual all-star game will go next Tuesday (Aug.4) at 7:30 p.m. at VanJura Field here in Fort Frances.
In a new twist on the format, the teams will be drafted later this week by a representative from each of last year’s two league finalists—the Barwick Blue Knights and Rainy River Royals.
Last year, each team submitted a list of players at each position who they felt earned all-star status.
The game will be preceded by an old-timers’ showdown at 5:30 p.m.
Any former RRDFL players interested in suiting up for that game are asked to contact Derek McKinnon (275-9583) or George Oltsher (487-2244).
• • •
My front page story in Monday’s Daily Bulletin contained a statement that FFCBC champions Joe Thrun and Jim Moynagh “played cribbage” in the boat during the latter stages of Saturday’s action.
This, in fact, was an off-the-cuff remark from a competing team that I had taken to be true.
The duo had said they had much of their success at mid-morning, and probably could’ve stopped fishing in the late stages, but this was by no means meant to suggest the two take this tournament for granted.
Rather, they put in the work—and it’s clearly paid off.
I apologize for any embarrassment or inconvenience this caused.

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