Like clockwork, the first weekend of June brings with it a certain cycle at Lampe Park in Gardnerville.
Crews show up three days in advance, start setting up temporary fencing and shade shelters and putting the finishing touches around Willow Creek.
By Saturday morning, every year, the largest free fishing derby this side of the Mississippi River materializes.
“It’s flawless,” said Teresa Clark, now in her 11th year volunteering with the derby. “It just doesn’t get any better.
“Everyone knows what to do, we have a solid routine. We’ve had plenty of years of trial and error. It’s become very refined. The volunteers I see out here, I’ve seen every year since I started. They’re all just so loyal. Everyone knows what to do by now.”
The 24th annual Kids Fishing Derby derby opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday and runs through Sunday afternoon at Lampe’s Willow Creek. More than 1,100 children are registered for the event, with walk-ups accepted at the Lampe Park Pavilion today and until closing today at the Tack Room at 1504 Highway 395 in Gardnerville.
“We’re already at more than 200 volunteers this year and more have been walking up all week just to ask if we need any help.” Clark said. “We’ve had 30 people out helping with setup today. We spent about five hours Wednesday and it’s all been coming together today.”
Both Jim O’Banion’s Aspen Lake Ranch and the Mason Valley Fish Hatchery planted fish in Willow Creek for the Derby Thursday morning. The total plant amounted to nearly 5,000 fish with sizes ranging from just under a pound to three pounds.
There are 300 tagged fish in the water with each caught tagged fish garnering a prize.
Raffle tickets will be sold for a variety of prizes and awards will be given to the winning fish from each of the seven sessions, as well as the overall best fish.
A free casting contest will be conducted both days and East Fork Fire and Paramedics Districts will be on hand with some of their equipment.
“The money we raise this year is being raised to pay for the Silver Anniversary of the derby next year,” derby vice president Steve Hamilton said. “The money we raised last year already bought all the fish and everything for this year. That’s how we do it. This next year will be the 25th anniversary. We’re hoping for a good showing this year, and to sell a lot of raffle tickets, to raise enough money to really do it up for the 25th.
“It’s incredible what this has turned into. There are kids that started fishing at the derby when they were 3, went all the way until they were 12, started volunteering, have gone off to other things, and now come back to volunteer as adults. That’s the legacy this event has made.”
Participants must be pre-registered and can only fish during the session they are scheduled for. Loaner fishing poles are available.