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White Bear Lake will host first metro Governor's Opener

White Bear Lake will host first metro Governor's Opener
Annual event steeped in history, tradition

May 18, 2008 - 11:37:55 CDT.

WHITE BEAR LAKE It appears that Bill Foussard's pageantry while strolling around in a fish suit a few years ago did the trick.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Sunday that the 2009 Governor's Fishing Opener weekend will be held in White Bear Lake next May 10, shining the spotlight on the area's recreational opportunities and bringing with it the possibility of more local tourist trade. Not only will 2009 be the first year White Bear Lake has hosted the prestigious event, it will also mark the first time the Opener has been held in the metro area.

"The Fishing Opener being in White Bear is on the same scale, for our community, as the National Republican Convention is for St. Paul," said Billy Dinkel, executive director of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's a testament to the hard work of those members of this community, like those  in (tourism promotion group) Explore White Bear, who have worked so hard to get this here."

Lisa Beecroft, director of the city's summer-long Marketfest promotion, said the Opener will have a "definite economic impact" to the city, in numbers to be estimated over the next few weeks. She was one of several area residents present in Breezy Point when Pawlenty made the announcement.

"This will make for a really long, fun season of community activities," she said. "Certainly fishing is the highlight, and we will promote all the lake has to offer.

But this will bring the media and others to the area to take advantage of the dining, retail, the view, and all the community has to offer ... and they'll remember us as an option for future events."

Foussard deserves credit for helping draw the governor's attention to White Bear; in 2005 the Explore White Bear member and owner of the White Bear Country Inn dressed as a fish to campaign for the honor when Pawlenty was in town addressing the Vadnais Heights Rotary Club and White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce. Pawlenty's response at the time was that White Bear's chances for the honor were slim, as the Opener usually promotes fishing in greater Minnesota in an effort to spread out the tourist dollar.    

Whatever the reason for the change of heart, Dinkel said several local organizations will work toward planning the event and strategizing the promotion of area recreation. Asked what local facility might serve as headquarters for the event, Dinkel said the White Bear Yacht Club is a possibility, though no such arrangements have been made.

"This will be something people always remember," he said.  

Beecroft noted that 412 people were registered to attend this year's Opener, and many stayed overnight in the Brainerd Lakes area.



After the announcement was made, the White Bear contingency presented Pawlenty with a ceramic bear statue and several hats imprinted with White Bear Lake logos, she said.   

White Bear Lake has been a finalist for the honor at least two other times.

Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dale Hedstrand said the honor will highlight the area as a "separate destination attraction."

"Having our governor join us in celebrating our unique heritage, and in our determination to intentionally maintain and enhance our community, will be wonderful," he said.  "(This will) be a great privilege for the whole area, from Hugo, Dellwood,  Mahtomedi, North St.Paul, Maplewood, Vadnais Heights...even Wilernie and Gem Lake in addition to White Bear Lake and White Bear Township."

A little history  

Created in 1948, the Opener has been around for 60 years and has seen plenty of history.

Credit for the first governor's opener usually goes to Gov. Luther Youngdahl. It is said that he hosted the first event on Lake Mille Lacs on 1948. Many, however, dispute whether Youngdahl was even there. Instead, it is the confluence of other events in 1948 that led to that being the first year. Among them was a financial investment from Conservation Commissioner Chester Wilson, who approved $300,000 for projects to help improve hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities in Minnesota. That amount would be equal to about $2 million in today's world.

1948 also marked the first year the Minneapolis Tribune covered the event. A newspaper in Minnesota had never covered the outdoors in such a way. The financial investment combined with the increased media attention  helped give life to the event. The first year a governor officially appeared at the event, however, was 1951.

But the event did not catch on right away. Gov. C. Elmer Anderson (1952-54) never made an appearance at the event, which was held on Mille Lacs each of the first 10 years. Instead, Anderson fished on a lake in his hometown of Brainerd. Orville Freeman also missed the event his first year in office (1955) and only made it three of his six years in office.

Becoming a tradition



It wasn't until 1958 that the Governor's Fishing Opener started to become what it is today. Lt. Gov. Karl Rolvaag became the first second-in-command to make an official appearance at the opener. When he became governor in 1963, the media dubbed the event the "Governor's Fishing Party," because of the events that usually transpired ashore after the fishing was done. That name stuck until 1977, when Rudy Perpich pushed to change the name of the event because of the reputation it had earned. Two year's later, when Al Quie became governor, the official name of the event became the "Governor's Fishing Opener," the name still used today.

The governor's attendance at the event since Rolvaag has also improved. Gov. Wendell Anderson missed the event in 1972 and again in 1975, but the official opener has been attended by the governor every year since.

Not just for lakes

In all, the event has been hosted on Lake Mille Lacs 13 times more than any other location. But that number includes the first 10 years of the event through 1957. The opener was moved to Upper Red Lake in 1958 and stayed there for three years. Since then, only twice has the event been held on the same body of water two years in a row: Both times, it was Pelican Lake, the site of this year's event. In all, Pelican Lake has hosted the event six times, second only to Mille Lacs.

But the event is not just an event for lakes. Arne Carlson's final opener in 1998 was in Red Wing along the Mississippi River. Winona hosted the governor in 1973 on the Mississippi and Lake City was the site of the 1981 opener on Lake Pepin.


New Restaurant OK'd for White Bear Lakeshore

By Elizabeth Mohr

Article Last Updated: 04/23/2008 12:23:15 PM CDT

The White Bear Lake City Council Tuesday approved plans for a lakeshore restaurant, three months after the Department of Natural Resources threatened to quash the idea.

Brian McGoldrick, who runs Docks of White Bear Lake at 4220 Lake Ave. S., applied to replace a 12-by-12-foot building at the southern end of the Marina Triangle with a restaurant overlooking the lake.

DNR officials said the original proposal's 15-foot setback was too close to the water. So McGoldrick and his designers went back to the drawing board. The council approved a new design for a 900-square foot building with a 32-foot setback, rain gardens and shoreline reconstruction.

McGoldrick said construction will begin soon, and he hopes to open the new restaurant, McGoldrick's, by July 4th.

If you have any questions, you may contact Brian McGoldrick by clicking here.

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