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We can all learn a little something from Waddington

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Waddington has been the epicenter of a veritable hotbed of activity over the last two weeks, and I’m sure merchants up and down the St. Lawrence River are grinning ear to ear.

I was stunned to hear that the Bassmaster Elite Series St. Lawrence River Showdown broke tournament attendance records. The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society reported a day or so after the tournament ended that about 31,400 people came to Waddington over Aug. 8 to 11.

A village with a population of less than 1,000 accommodating that number of visitors seems impossible. But it happened. And I have heard nothing but good things about the tournament, the accompanying Tastes and Talents of the North Country Festival and the other attractions that kept visitors engaged throughout the contest.

That is nothing short of amazing.

We’ve also heard, anecdotally at least, that businesses from Morristown to Massena were extremely busy over that time. Visitors and anglers crowded hotels and restaurants, and the few retailers I’ve talked to said they saw an obvious uptick in business.

I’m anxious to see what Clarkson University School of Business students find when they are done compiling a report on the economic impact of the tournament. I will not be surprised if their findings back up what we already pretty much know.

Let’s face it, though. The tournament was expensive to host, costing well in excess of $100,000. The absolute proof of its success will be in how Clarkson is able to quantify the community’s return on that investment. Having attracted 31,400 people, it’s probably safe to say that investment was well worth it.

I have high hopes that based on the record attendance and the seemingly endless praise the river’s bass fishery got from competitors, B.A.S.S. will want to come back. And even though it was an enormous undertaking by a group of dedicated volunteers, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and municipal officials to pull off this tournament, I am sure we will welcome another with open arms.

As an aside, I chuckled to myself over the outrage some people expressed at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for not specifically mentioning the St. Lawrence River in his remarks about the state’s abundance of fishing tourism opportunities while he was in Waddington. What he says has absolutely no bearing on whether B.A.S.S. decides to hold another tournament here, so who cares? We have more important things for which we should reserve our criticism. Let’s keep our gripes with him properly prioritized, please.

A week later, right on the heels of the biggest bass tournament these parts have seen, was this weekend’s Junior Carp Tournament, which attracted 122 young anglers and their families to the St. Lawrence River from all over the country.

I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised that the lowly carp has managed to generate so many tourists for as long as it has. When the tournament started I was skeptical about its success because, quite frankly, I just don’t see what all the fuss is about. Carp are fairly disgusting creatures. But we talk to families, both local and far from it, year after year who say they love coming back and will participate in the tournament for as long as they can. And all because they love fishing for carp — specifically St. Lawrence River carp.

Just think. The tiny village of Waddington has been at the center of all this activity that brings tourists and money to our corner of the world and raises our profile across the country as a place to bring the family for a great time.

Waddington’s neighboring communities might want to consider taking a page from its playbook to see how they, too, can use their proximity to the St. Lawrence to bring in more visitors and revenue for businesses. Waddington is obviously doing it right.

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