It was billed as the Tri-City Elks Lodge’s 5th Annual Fishing Derby for boys and girls ages 5 to 12.
But the annual gathering of aspiring anglers was, as James Suttles said, “the kind of event we are supposed to be doing for people in the community.”
Suttles, who is a Rhode Island transplant since moving from his native Georgia and serves Lodge No. 14 as Esteemed Loyal Knight, added, “This is a perfect mission statement without words; we, as Elks, are all about helping families and friends in a number of ways.”
He wasn’t the only member of Lodge 14 who put his best foot forward to make sure every child that came to the Fishing Derby had plenty of fun and food.
“We’re not only welcoming these kids here to fish,” said Griff Williams, who has chaired every Elks Lodge 14 Fishing Derby for the past five years. “This event is getting bigger and bigger every year. I think I’d better call Charlie Moore and get him to come here and give us a few pointers.”
Moore, the so-called “fishing fanatic,” has a highly-popular show all about the sport on NESN (New England Sports Network).
“Charlie would love to see all these kids fishing,” Williams said. “I’m sure that he’d also enjoy watching the weigh-in and every child enjoying hot dogs, chips and soda with their parents – and in some cases grandparents.”
Saturday’s Fishing Derby began at 7 a.m., and children dressed in a variety of colorful garb staked claim to a special spot on the banks of the pond behind the lodge. The pond is well stocked with brook and rainbow trout.
Some of the younger kids needed help casting their lines, but that was OK, according to derby rules, which allow a parent, guardian, grandparent or family member to tackle that chore for their favorite youth angler.
However, reeling in that prize catch belonged solely to the children.
“It’s fun just watching all the children fish,” Anne Marie Greaves, Lodge 14’s Chaplin, said. “Their smiles are priceless!”
Brady Safford, 5, of Warwick was so proud of one catch; he held the trout in his hand for a half-dozen people who were taking pictures.
The same thing held true for Warwick resident Debra Knight and her husband Frank Knight, who is a member at Lodge 14 and owns Knight’s Plumbing of Warwick. Like all the adults, the Knights made the morning special for their grandchildren, Liam Shannahan, 3; Maya O’Connell, 6; and Cole O’Connell.
The Knights set up special children’s chairs for their favorite fishermen, who, despite not getting many bites, were all smiles throughout the four-hour event.
At approximately 10:45, Williams used his baritone bass voice to announce fishing would close at 11 and be followed by the official weigh-in. He also reminded the kids and their parents that refreshments were available, courtesy of Lodge 14.
The weigh-in, most everyone agreed, was the “icing on the cake of a fun-filled day.”
Williams pumped humor into the session when he personally weighed each and every fish.
“This fish [brook trout] weighs 43 ounces,” Williams barked outside Lodge 14’s basement banquet facility. “Here’s another one at 53 ounces.”
When the weigh-in was finished, Safford and Jada Stackhouse, 7, of Cranston, were announced winners of the two age groups. They each received a fishing rod and reel for catching the biggest fish in their respective age divisions.
“This was a very good event,” Williams said. “We had a very good turnout and no one was turned away because of their age.”
Although the event was for kids ages 5 to 12, there were a few 3-and-4-year-olds who entered and caught a fish.
“This will be bigger and better next year,” Williams said while assembling every entrant in a large group for the day’s final order of business. “OK kids, line up; we have a trophy for all of you.”
“This is what we love to see,” said Mark Eaton, who was recently installed as Exalted Ruler of Lodge 14. “In fact, if there’s anyone out there who’d like to help us organize these types of events, don’t hesitate to call.”
Eaton can be reached at Lodge 14 at 737-9510.