Smiles, hugs, champagne and salmon were plentiful at the 5th Annual Kenai River Women’s Classic. Sixty-eight of Alaska’s top business leaders cashed in on good weather and silver salmon fishing. “No Mother Nature doesn’t have a sexual bias, she has a fear of Purcell!” joked KTUU Channel 2’s meteorologist Jackie Purcell. Purcell has been the ladies only events emcee since its inaugural year which has seen beautiful autumn weather without exception. “We had to use lines to catch the fish today there was no wireless fishing, but in the future who knows anything is possible and we do have a passion for bringing the latest technology to Alaskans,” commented Alaska Communications director Heather Cavanaugh.
Plenty of pinks and silvers were online for anglers during the annual fundraising fishing event, which is organized by Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA). Proceeds from participant fees, sponsorships and a live and silent auction go to KRSA’s fishery conservation programs and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Camp Startup Scholarship Program. The Chamber’s Athena Society provides scholarship funding for young Alaskan women who aspire to own their own companies someday to attend an entrepreneurial skills camp each summer. “The first year we had 38 participants and this year we had 68, so it’s growing popularity across the state and was a huge success on every level,” said Kenai River Women’s Classic Chair Kristin Mellinger, of Soldotna. “The fishing was great, the weather was cooperative and we successfully raised some money for the Kenai River.”
The winning silver weighed in at 13.2 pounds, caught by Tara Sweeney senior vice president of external affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. “I was ecstatic when the fish hit the line, this was the first fish I’ve ever caught on the Kenai even though fishing has been a way of life for my people forever, it was trilling and I’m so excited to be a part of this event,” Sweeney told the Dispatch in an interview. Second place was captured by Terri Good of Premera Blue Cross of Alaska at 10.9 pounds and coming in third place at 10.8 pounds was Kara Moriarty of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association.
Participants in the women’s fishing, networking and fundraising event enjoyed two sun-filled mornings of silver salmon fishing with professional guides. They also attended a kick-off, riverside barbecue, and a dinner and auction at the Challenger Learning Center that featured a three-member panel discussion on leadership, mentoring and management skills. Elaina and Ted Spraker held a women on target shooting event where the ladies emptied their pistols at a charging bear (a target on skids pulled by a four-wheeler). “It was a hoot!” said Kelly Hanke, KRSA event coordinator. “But we had a number of volunteers that coordinated other day events that were really great too.” Some opted to take a tour of river restoration projects, learn new salmon recipes with Bunny Swan Gease or go to the spa.
Sponsors of the 2012 Kenai River Women’s Classic include title sponsor GCI, and event sponsors ConocoPhillips, Premera Blue Cross of Alaska, the Pebble Partnership, AngloAmerican, Harvey Gulf, and Corvus Gold. Dozens of volunteers and businesses from the Kenai Soldotna area donated their time or products and services to make the event a success.
Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) is a non-profit, membership-based educational and conservation organization of sport anglers, conservationists and others whose primary goal is to preserve and improve salmon habitat while promoting responsible sport fishing on the Kenai River. Learn more at www.krsa.com.