2013 Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at St. Lawrence River
St. Lawrence River - Waddington, NY, Aug 8 - 11, 2013

Tiny town, huge crowd

Upstate New York event breaks Bassmaster attendance record

Fans were treated to a sporting event in which the competition was fierce. On the line were $100,000, a qualification for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and a career-boosting Elite Series title.

While the anglers competed on the water, fans were drawn to Whittaker Park by a big slate of free entertainment, including the four-day Tastes of the North Country Festival with more than 100 vendors, 15 concerts, exhibits and fireworks, all organized by the Village of Waddington, the official host.

A fishing derby conducted by Wounded Warriors Outdoor Adventures and Saturday’s Military Appreciation Day added to the crowd.

Those activities brought in fans, adding to attendance at the competition’s morning launches and afternoon weigh-ins. Other activities included the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo, which consists of exhibits and demos by Bassmaster sponsors, and the Bassmaster Elite Series High School Experience, which gives young anglers an insider’s view of pro bass fishing.

Combined, the activities and vendors covered the expansive grounds of Whittaker Park. Waddington’s part in the success should be credited to a handful of volunteers, Otto-Cassada said: Bob Giordano, Jill Kubik, Bill Dashnaw, Jo-Ann Roberts, Alison Power, Bob Dalton, Billy Hosmer and Claire Tutney.

“We showed what can be done with a few volunteers,” Otto-Cassada said.

The mayor and others began organizing the event more than a year in advance. They joined forces a few months later with the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and worked with the chamber’s FISHCAP, a public-private partnership. Resources were committed to advertising and promotion, and media outlets were contacted. During the event, hundreds of volunteers from Waddington and surrounding areas pitched in on tournament days. They handled parking, shuttles and picked up trash each night at the venue.

“Even our DPW (Waddington Department of Public Works) guys — all three of them — worked once until 1 o’clock one morning to be sure the site was clean and welcoming for the next day,” she said.

Giordano acted as the event coordinator. Like Otto-Cassada, he was elated when he heard the final crowd figures.

“The event not only exceeded my expectations, it exceeded everybody’s,” said Giordano.

The Waddington organizers took some initial direction from organizers of the previous attendance record-holder, Orange, Texas, he said.

“We looked at what Orange did,” he said. “We saw they were similar to us as far as being rural, even though they have a bigger population. We saw how we wanted to advertise and promote.”

Waddington’s economic impact study of the Showdown is under way, Giordano said.

“I can tell you now that all the businesses we talked to said it was very, very successful for them,” he said.

He already knows that fans from New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maine were there, in addition to New York residents. Otto-Cassada said she talked with people from as far away as the Midwest and the South.

“We also had a huge Canadian presence,” Giordano said. “We know that because people from Canada came up and talked to us. We also had a big turnout from Fort Drum (in Watertown, N.Y.) for Military Appreciation Day.”

Wounded Warriors Outdoor Adventures, of which Giordano is president, sponsored the wounded warriors derby. They flew in about 60 service members from around the country with the help of Hero Miles, a program that offers free airline flights to wounded warriors.

Giordano had a reason to volunteer so much of his time to make Waddington’s part in the Showdown a show-stopper. That reason goes back to when he retired from the Air Force. He settled just outside of Waddington village limits because he wanted to be near the St. Lawrence fishery.

“I wanted the world to know what I found when I came here,” he said. “The place is beautiful and the fishing is fantastic.”

Even more people will soon learn about Waddington and the St. Lawrence fishery on ESPN2. The Bassmasters coverage of the Showdown will air Aug. 18 at 8 a.m. ET, and again Sept. 7 at 6 a.m. ET. The ESPN Classic channel will air the show Aug. 18, at 10 a.m. ET, and Sept. 8 at 8 a.m. ET. In addition, The Outdoor Channel will present the Showdown Sept. 16. For times, check local listings.