Kids’ Fishing Derby returns to Willow Creek in June

The last fish planting for the Kids Fishing Derby was May 30, 2019. The event is back June 1-2 at Lampe Park.

The last fish planting for the Kids Fishing Derby was May 30, 2019. The event is back June 1-2 at Lampe Park.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

After a four-year hiatus, event planners for the Douglas County Kids’ Fishing Derby have recently announced the event’s return to Willow Creek at Lampe Park in Gardnerville June 1-2.

The Fishing Derby had been a popular event for over 30 years and since its absence, members of the Kids Fishing Derby and many community members doubted that the derby would be revived, especially after following the 2020 pandemic.

The pandemic alone significantly impacted the crew’s ability to host such a large and public event, but prior to that, the Kids Fishing Derby was already struggling after the several losses to its Board Committee and their attempt to find good fits to fill the remaining chairperson positions.

Many remaining Derby members did their best to carry the extra responsibilities, but ultimately, due to restrictions and a lack of volunteers to complete the many various tasks needed to make the derby a success, the organization was forced to postpone its 2020 event just weeks before its scheduled date.

The event relies heavily on volunteers and sponsors and without a solid Board and committee who could commit to the enormous undertaking that is planning the event, the Kids Fishing Derby was canceled.

Many events take time to plan and the Kids’ Fishing Derby requires a year to prepare for the two-day event. Board and committee members are required to attend an event meeting at least once monthly between August and March, with several meetings a month as the crew enter its registration period in April and May before the event in June.

For the next three years, the crew continued to experience a shortage of event planners, and subsequently canceled the event again.

“We tried for three years to encourage members to attend meetings and get this thing off the grounds again, but it was really hard,” said 2024 Kids Fishing Derby President Stu Hill. “We really wanted to have a Derby so badly, but for one reason or another just couldn’t make it happened. We needed more people, not just volunteers during the Derby weekend, but really to tackle important committee positions.”

Derby representative Tiffany Ellis agreed, stating that many of the members of the committee lost had been involved for almost 30 years.

“Many had reached an age where they physically could not continue to work the event in the same capacity they once had,” said Ellis. “Some of those volunteers were hugely important to our efforts and it’s been especially hard to fill their shoes since they retired.”

In Spring 2023 when the decision to once again forgo the event that June, the crew found support and fresh ideas through the local Elks Lodge and together focused on reimagining the Kids’ Fishing Derby for 2024.

Both new and returning Board and Committee members are dedicated to reviving the beloved event and bringing it back to its former glory.

This year, the Board and Committee are as follows: President Stu Hill, Vice President and Volunteer Coordinator Laura Ramirez-Lonero, Treasure Jim Rooda, Secretary Marsh Wilkinson, Master of Ceremonies Doug Busey, Kid Registration and Media Chairperson Tiffany Ellis, Fish Procurement Chairman Deb Cole, Retail Sales Chairperson Carol Babish, Fundraising Committee cochair Jeri Bennt, Media Consultant Gary Beadle, Rivermaster Melissa Strazi, as well as general committee members Connie Richardson of Raley’s, Danny Lozano, Sky and Becky Dwinell, John and Anita Hefner, jeff Cotter, Nate Schaffer, Bob Rittenhouse, Joscelyn Ried, and David Del Marto.

The board and xommittee is seeking an estimated 300 volunteers for the event. Jobs include assisting with set up and tear down, river help, food and retail sales, gate prizes and more. Volunteers are given a Derby hat, as well as a free meal ticket for serving in 2 or more sessions, Volunteers with less than one year of experience is required to attend at least 1 volunteer meeting. Returning volunteers are encouraged to attend a meeting as a refresher. Contact Laura Lonero at for more information.

Pre-registration for the event is required beginning April 1 and will continue until the week of the Derby. Forms for both kid and volunteer registration can found at the Douglas County Community Center, Accolades’ Trophies, The Angler’s Edge, and AJ’s Stoves. Tickets can be picked up at either Accolades’ Trophies or AJ’s Stoves during their normal business hours and every Saturday in April and May 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of AJ’s Stoves. Raffle tickers will also be available for purchase at these locations at $2 each or 6 for $10. Visit for more information. For sponsoring and donations information call Tom Zogorski at 775-781-4754.


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