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Bass tournament has exciting potential

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Since last year we have been reporting regularly on the upcoming Bassmaster Elite Tournament in Waddington.

It’s not happening until Aug. 8 to 11, but we were writing about it in earnest when there was fresh snow on the ground — at least a couple of times a week. We’re still writing about it that much.

Our newspapers have devoted so much attention to it for one simple reason: it’s a big deal. It is the biggest deal to come our way in a long, long time, if not ever.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the sponsors. Evan Williams Bourbon is the title sponsor for the St. Lawrence River Showdown. Corporations like Burger King, Mercury, Yamaha, Smith & Wesson, and a who’s who of the lure, boat and outboard motor industry have put their corporate sponsorships on anglers. I can’t think of a single other north country event that has drawn that caliber of sponsorship power.

The anglers fishing in the tournament have fished all over the country, and in some cases all over the world. And they are all coming to our little corner of the world a couple of short months from now.

Those are just the contestants. I haven’t even mentioned the thousands — and we’re talking 10,000 or more — people who will come to watch the tournament. National television network crews will be here to cover it. Waddington, the surrounding communities and the beauty of the St. Lawrence River will be placed in a white-hot international spotlight.

I’ve heard some groaning from naysayers who authoritatively say there is no way the sleepy village of Waddington will be able to accommodate that many people, and that we must be crazy for wanting to pony up tens of thousands of dollars to host the tournament. Those naysayers deserve to be ignored.

The international exposure our corner of the world will get will be well worth every penny and every drop of sweat that goes into organizing the tournament. People will want to fish in the same place the pros did, especially if the bass fishing is good. We river rats already know how good the fishing is. I will not be surprised if we see a tourism boom as a result.

If Waddington and the surrounding communities can pull off the level of hospitality they want to offer to spectators, anglers and media, our businesses — not just in Waddington but all along our neck of the river — will reap big benefits. And those benefits could repeat in successive years if tournament organizers and anglers like what they see and want to come back.

Those who are still skeptical need to consider this: the sleepy village of Watkins Glen has a population of 1,862, which is about twice the population of Waddington but still a pretty small place.

On race day at Watkins Glen International Raceway, tens of thousands of people clog the village and its surrounding communities. The raceway by itself has a seating capacity of 41,000.

You don’t hear about businesses or community leaders in Watkins Glen trying to chase NASCAR out of town because the community can’t handle the influx of visitors or because the tourists are wrecking the place. Businesses there do very well during racing season.

If Watkins Glen can accommodate that kind of influx, Waddington and the surrounding communities will do just fine accommodating all involved with this high-profile tournament.

It’s great to see that communities outside of Waddington have rallied to support bringing the tournament here. That support needs to continue and even be stepped up a notch as opening day approaches. If Waddington does well in this endeavor, all of our communities will do well. The prospects are very exciting.

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