Sunday, June 19, 2011

Active Saturday in Decatur

Blast from the past
Active Saturday in Decatur
Horse, car shows, fishing tournament among day’s events
By Bayne Hughes

Ariel Cole finished off her horse’s Saturday morning bath by kissing him on the nose. Struttin’ Again reacted with a couple of nods of his head, and that’s the way they finished off their preparations for Saturday night’s horse show at Morgan County Celebration Arena in Priceville.

It was one of many events on a very active Saturday in the Decatur area.

A national fishing tournament with music, a car show benefit and softball tournament also made for a bustling community this weekend for visitors and local residents.

“This definitely has been an above-average day for the number of events going on in our community,” said Tami Reist, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau president.

Balmy weather made it a perfect day for outings until the afternoon thunderstorms rolled through. The day’s 10-mph winds kept high temperatures around 90 degrees.

It was a quiet morning at Celebration Arena where horse owners were preparing for the Racking Horse Mid-Summer Classic. Randy and Becky Siniard, Shannon Cole and Ariel Cole came from Temple, Ga., to enter four horses.

“We’ve been here almost two weeks,” Randy Siniard said.

Ariel, 17, said most of the work occurs the day of the show. Struttin’ Again needed the bath because he had a short morning workout.

The horse owners also prepared their horse tack and cleaned their performance clothes if needed.

“One of the things I enjoyed about walking horse is getting to dress up,” said Ariel, who also competes in barrel racing.

The largest of the area events was the Bassmaster Elite Series Dixie Duel tournament in Ingalls Harbor. The event included the Family Music Jam Fest for visitors’ enjoyment.

The crowd was small for Saturday’s opening Jam Fest act while the fishermen were on the water, but Reist said she expected the numbers to grow. The free jam will continue today at noon. She said she expected close to 8,000 for the final weigh-in at 3:15 p.m. today and the Colt Ford concert at 7 tonight.

Across town, Wayne Hurt was showing off his white 1951 Ford Convertible in the third annual Rollin’ on the River car show at Decatur Mall.

“We considered putting a tent up, but it’s been a little breezy and we didn’t want it to end up on one of the cars,” Hurt said.

Hurt, a Decatur resident, was one of more than 100 car enthusiasts participating in the Habitat for Humanity benefit. Organizers were hoping to raise close to $15,000. He said he and his wife, Annie, frequent the local car show circuit.

“We enjoy the camaraderie,” Hurt said. “Old car enthusiasts are good lot.”

While Hurt prefers the antique cars, owners were also showing off their modified muscle cars. The car show offered more than cool vehicles. Vendors sold items like homemade jewelry, soy candles, ice cream and food.

Ron and Barbara Terry of Somerville said they planned to attend the car show. They were taking photos of the vehicles they liked.

“We both enjoy seeing the different cars and visiting with owners,” Ron Terry said.

At nearby Wilson Morgan Park, 16 Cook’s Pest Control teams from throughout the state were playing in the corporate softball tournament.

Jacob Ford, 21, said his Montgomery team was eliminated in two games, but he and his family enjoyed his visit. They particularly enjoyed Cook’s company party Friday evening at Point Mallard Aquatics Center.

“It’s nice up here,” Ford said. “The weather has been great. My 3-year-old and 15-month-old loved playing in the water.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dixie Duel, River City revenues

This week’s Bassmaster tourney is catching more than just fish
By Jason Lankford

What do you get when you combine a lake full of elusive bass, four days of competitive fishing and 99 professional anglers?

A tourism official hopes the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s Bassmaster Elite Series tournament that starts today adds up to $550,000 in economic impact for Decatur and exposure for the city’s outdoor facilities. ESPN will broadcast one-hour specials on the tournament June 26 and July 9.

“When this is televised on ESPN, people who see this are going to see Decatur showcased, and they’re going to want to come to Wheeler Lake,” said Tami Reist, Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau president. “That is something that can’t be measured.”

Reist was able to measure economic impact, she said, based on statistics from 2009’s tournament.

This year’s tournament, called the Dixie Duel, will include professional anglers such as J. Todd Tucker of Moultrie, Ga., a member of the Big Green Egg team. Tucker estimated he’ll spend $110 a day for lodging and $160 a day for fuel and food.

“What a lot of people don’t think about is that every angler will bring about seven to 10 people with them if you include their families and pit crews,” Tucker said. “All of them are going to be spending money in all these places, too.”

Nitro fishing team member David White, known as “Happy” to fellow crew members, said he and his family have eaten at several area restaurants and will “eat at them all before the week’s over.”

Evinrude E-Team angler David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., said he and his family are staying in their camper at Point Mallard Campground at a rate of $150 per week. Supplying fuel for his two vehicles and boat has been his major expense.

Walker said he has fished in several tournaments, and the set-up at Ingalls Harbor, where anglers will launch their boats, is unique compared to other places because it is located in a city and has more modern facilities and abundant parking spaces.

“Alabama as a whole has better facilities,” he said. “That attracts things like this.”

Royce Figueroa, a vendor for Berkley Fishing from Fort Worth, Texas, who demonstrates equipment at the Elite Series tournaments, is no stranger to being on the road and living out of a suitcase.

“I’m one of the few vendors who’s on the road 200-plus days out of the year,” he said.

Figueroa said he prefers to stay in smaller hotels because he likes to support local owners rather than corporations.

“I like to bring money back to the small people,” Figueroa said.

Registration for anglers was held Wednesday at the Holiday Inn. General Manager Andy Safiano said that with many reservations coming in at the last minute, it is difficult to assess how many rooms will be booked. He does not anticipate a shortage.

“But that would be a very nice problem to have,” he said.

There has been speculation about the BASS tournament headquarters moving to Alabama from its current location in the Orlando area. Co-owner Don Logan, a native of Hartselle, said that it is really a question of when and where at this point.

“We’re trying to aim for some time prior to the end of the year,” Logan said.

Reist has sent Logan a letter proposing that Decatur be considered as a site. Logan said the advantages to relocating to Alabama are its central location in relation to the tournament circuit and the amount of local interest and participation in the sport.

“There’s a lot of talent here,” he said. “More anglers live in Alabama than in any other state. We think it would be a great place to call home.”

Bassmaster Elite Series Dixie Duel
■When: Today through Sunday.
■Boat launch: 6:45 a.m. daily from Ingalls Harbor, 701 Market St. N.W.
■Weigh-in: 3:15 p.m. daily (live coverage on
■Field: 99 professional anglers will compete today and Friday. Field will be cut to top 50 for Saturday and top 12 for Sunday.
■At stake: Tournament winner will receive $100,000. Event also will determine Angler of the Year, which is worth $100,000 to points race winner. Kevin VanDam and Edwin Evers enter Dixie Duel first and second in points.
■ESPN broadcast times: June 26, 7 a.m.; July 9, 8 a.m.