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Bassmaster tournament, north country festival boost economy

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WADDINGTON — Day three of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament filled Waddington not just with fishing enthusiasts Saturday but festival-goers as well as residents, Canadian tourists and out-of-state visitors streamed to the Tastes and Talents of the North Country in a combined boost to the economy.

Jo Ann Roberts, events and promotions manager and membership coordinator for the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said the “Super Bowl of fishing” usually brings millions of dollars into a local economy.

“I flew to Orange, Texas, in March to attend the first Elite Series for this year, and they reported $2.8 million economic boost to their economy,” she said.

There are eight Elite Series tournaments throughout the year; this was the first time one has been held in St. Lawrence County.

Businesses not just in Waddington but throughout the area already are seeing a boost.

At the Massena Quality Inn, fishing boats were trailered in the parking lot and members of the media set up shop. The hotel was booked Saturday and tonight.

“We think this is going to be a great event for St. Lawrence County,” General Manager Lee Stevens said. “We think it’ll attract other national organizations to perhaps come to St. Lawrence County at least as far as fishing is concerned, and maybe they’ll attract something else all together.”

At Lisbon Beach and Campground, all 92 campsites are full, Director Michael J. O’Neil said. Spectators and professional anglers had been booking sites since August of last year. “We have even started a waiting list,” Mr. O’Neil said.

Many of the anglers will stay in town a few days after the tournament, he said.

“It’s helped a lot,” he said. “There’s been a lot of people coming in to see them and their boats. It’s been a tremendous impact on the area and the stores. They are filling up their tanks on a daily basis at Parkway Country Store. They use a lot of fuel. Plus they are getting groceries and subs. They are very nice people.”

The Econo Lodge in Massena also has been busy.

“We have only a couple of rooms left,” owner Sonia Desai said. “We’ve had a lot of walk-ins and last-minute people needing rooms.”

The tournament has “definitely increased business,” she said. “It’s putting the north country in the spotlight, which is exactly what we need.”

Restaurants are benefiting, as well.

“In the last couple of days, we’ve had a few come from the tournament that were sent over from the hotels,” Vino Vidi Vici owner Tarek Makdouli said. “I hope the increase continues.”

The chamber held the Tastes and Talents of the North Country festival in conjunction with the Bassmaster tournament. Eric Lopez, operations director for the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, which puts on the tournament, said he was impressed with the local turnout.

“This is one of the most beautiful areas we have been in, and that’s the first thing that everyone notices,” he said.

Mr. Lopez said that as of 7 a.m. Saturday, 13,000 people had come since the start of the tournament on Thursday. He said that because the two biggest days are Saturday and today, he expected that number to rise considerably.

Mr. Lopez said he expects thousands of people in front of the stage today when BASS awards the $100,000 tournament prize.

“This is going to end up being one of the top Elites in the history of the Elite Series, which we’re really excited about,” he said. “I know there was a lot of local questioning whether or not the event was going to be a success, and I think any of the naysayers have been proven wrong and now see that this is one of the best events to hit the area.”

Ms. Roberts said Bucky Covington from “American Idol” performed Friday night, and Jason Michael Carroll was to perform Saturday night.

“If we have a headliner music act, it draws in a lot of people,” she said.

Cindy L. Goliber, Potsdam town clerk, was running The Nut Shop for her sister, Ms. Roberts. She said that business for her booth picked up each day and that the fishing tournament brought people from all over the country and Canada through the venue.

“It brought people from outside the area to St. Lawrence County,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of Canadian shoppers and people from out of state. We need to have tourism in our area.”

Bruce H. Francey, Lisbon, had a booth set up, selling mostly toys and knickknacks for children. He said having the Bassmaster competition in Waddington was a good stimulator for the area’s economy.

“It’s a good event and I hope they continue it,” he said. “They have to stay somewhere and spend some money. The restaurants and bars were open half the night.”

Not all vendors, however, experienced good business during the festival.

Rene A. Page, Louisville, represented St. Lawrence Seaway Souvenirs. He said that although the Bassmaster tournament brought in great business for area hotels and restaurants, it didn’t do much for his business because people were more interested in the fishing than buying souvenirs.

“The economy doesn’t help matters because most of the local people don’t have money to spend on items of this nature,” he said. “And the ones who are coming from far away are not really into buying souvenirs because they travel all over the country anyway.”

Johnson Newspapers writer Victor Barbosa contributed to this report.


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