LACONIA — The 34th Winni Derby drew a little more than 1,000 participants – short of a record for the late spring landlocked salmon and trout fishing derby but well above the modest expectations of the Daniel Webster Council of Boy Scouts, hosting the event for the first time.
"It was fantastic, we were very pleased with the turnout," said John Rainville, development director for the Daniel Webster Council. He said that the turnout was a "pleasant surprise," especially considering that the derby wasn't held at all last year.
The Winni Derby was founded by Rick Davis, a lifelong Moultonborough resident, business owner and sportsman. Davis ran the derby until shortly before his death in 2011. The Laconia Rotary Club took over the derby and operated it through 2015, but was unable to put on the event in 2016.
Leslie Sturgeon, Davis' daughter, said that her mother, Dianne Davis, was "devastated" to hear that the derby wouldn't be held last year. Dianne, who passed away about a year ago, was as much a part of the derby as her husband was, according to Sturgeon, even though she didn't always get the credit.
"Dad was the face of the Winni Derby, mom was the backbone. It very much was a family effort," Sturgeon said. "To see the event continue in very capable hands makes my family very, very happy."
She said that her father, who loved how fishing could bring friends and family together, was especially supportive of efforts to introduce the sport to children. With that in mind, she said, "The Boy Scouts are the perfect organization to be working with the derby now."
The Scouts added a new element to the derby this year, a Friday night expo at the Merrill Fay Arena in Laconia. The event offered food, live entertainment, exhibitors and a chance for derby participants to socialize. Rainville said that about a third of the overall participants came to the expo, and he expects to continue the event as a signature part of the Winni Derby for years to come.
Proceeds from the event will benefit scouting activities across the state, such as recruitment and training events for volunteers, and by keeping costs low for scouts attending summer camps. Locally, the Griswold Scout Reserve, which stretches across parts of Gilford, Gilmanton and Alton, serves about 2,500 scouts per year, who come for a week at a time.
Rainville said the Scouts are happy to carry on the Winni Derby tradition.
"We're very encouraged that the community embraced it coming back, and we're looking forward to continuing it in the future," he said.
First place in the adult Salmon Division, winning a Tracker Pro Guide fishing boat, with a 4.58-pound salmon, was Ed Dingman Jr. of Chesterfield, N.H.
First place in the Lake Trout Division, winning a Polaris Sportsman ATV, with a 4.56-pound lake trout, was Allan Beauvais of Auburn, Maine.
First place in the Women's Division, winning a $1,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card, with a 3.56-pound salmon, was Jennifer Zdon of Hillsboro, N.H.
First place in the Junior Division, winning a $1,000 A.J.'s Bait & Tackle fishing package, with a 4.20-pound salmon, was Connor Glowa of Glenburn, Maine.
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