Tonawanda News — Families from across the Tonawandas, and even further out, will gather at Niawanda Park this weekend for the 19th annual Kids Free Fishing Derby.
The event is an opportunity for families and children of all ages to get outside, spend some time together, and participate in an activity many children might normally not get to experience.
“All about introducing kids to the outdoors,” said John White, who organizes the event. “We’re blessed with all these waterways, all right in our back yards and we don’t use them enough.”
The event is nearing the completion of its second decade. In that time, the derby has continuously grown, starting with less than 100 children the first year and hitting as high as 800 in recent years.
Participants can enter the fishing competition in four age groups, under 7, 8 to 10, 11 to 13 and 14 to 16. It is a state requirement that 16-year-olds must have fishing permits and those under 10 must be accompanied by an adult.
Prizes will be awarded to the person who catches the biggest fish in each age group. However, everyone who registers will also be eligible to win prizes.
“Usually it’s the littlest girl with the Mickie Mouse rod that catches the biggest fish,” laughed Mandy Lofft, director of Park and Recreation in the City of Tonawanda.
“It’s a great free event that draws people from pretty much all over and brings people to waterfront. It’s become one of the better known fishing derbies in the area. We usually have several hundred kids. It’s great for the community and we have some amazing volunteers.”
Everything at the event is free, and the rods and reels donated for the children to catch their fish with will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club after this weekend. Thousands of worms to be used as bait were donated by Big Catch and Gander Mountain and the grand prizes were donated by Niagara Outdoors, Rapala, Triple S Sporting Goods and Confer Plastics.