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Walleye Challenge: Hundreds show for raffles despite no contest

Hundreds await the results of drawings for the Walleye Challenge prize giveaways on Saturday at Lanzi's on the Lake on the Great Sacandaga Lake. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

MAYFIELD — Even though the Walleye Challenge ice fishing was canceled due to unsafe ice and temperatures were in the teens, hundreds of fishing enthusiasts and their families turned out for partying and prizes Saturday at Lanzi’s on the Lake.

The challenge is “a great event,” said Bill Nealon of Broadalbin. “Too bad there isn’t more ice. But this is why we live in the Adirondacks. It’s still a great day.”

It was a clear and sunny one, at that.

“We can still go snowmobiling afterward because all the trails are groomed,” said Fred Hansen of Broadalbin.

Mike and Joanne Wancewiz of Hagaman came back from a cruise through the Panama Canal with 80 to 90 degree weather to face 8 degrees Friday night.

Lou Stutzke emcees the Walleye Challenge prize giveaways on Saturday at Lanzi's on the Lake on the Great Sacandaga Lake. State Assemblyman Robert Smullen drew the names. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

“I think everyone is disappointed because they came here to fish, but we can enjoy the comradeship,” Mike said.

Periodic drawings by state Assemblyman Robert Smullen for prizes got the crowd’s attention every time. Tom Butt of Perth had a big smile after receiving a cash prize. Lou Stutzke emceed the program.

This winter, the Fulton Montgomery County Regional Chamber of Commerce enhanced the tournament by holding a Walleye Awakening the evening before at Lanzi’s that comprised music, food and drink, fireworks and a bonfire.

President and CEO of the chamber, Mark Kilmer, said the chamber decided to build on the tournament because it “is the most important event in terms of support to the economy of Fulton County.”

“We created a family fun event the night before. I expect to see it grow every year,” Kilmer said. “The tournament is getting bigger and more noted outside of the state.”

Tom Butt of Perth is happy to win cash at the Walleye Chalenge prize giveaways on Saturday at Lanzi's on the Lake on the Great Sacandaga Lake. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Anne Boles, the chamber director of tourism development, said, “I feel things are going to be fantastic despite not having the fish portion.”

Mike Knuetter of Berlin got the best of both worlds. He said he fished (without luck) in a safe area of the lake on Friday.

“I’m not disappointed because everybody has the same chance to win a prize” through drawings, he said.

After fishing Friday hight, he said, “It took me all night to warm up.” However, he watched the fireworks from bed in a house he rented.

Though it’s too bad the fishing fell through, Mike Cooper of Rotterdam said, “I always have a good time.”

“It’s pretty awesome to get everybody out in the winter,” said Peter Wille of Meco. “It gives people something to do. We come every year. You get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”

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