Last week's Kenai River Classic was the biggest ever, according to Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Brett Huber.
"Preliminary numbers for the event appear to be well in excess of the $700,000 goal," Huber said.
Besides the sheer volume of money generated by the exclusive, invitation-only fishing tourney, Huber said, there was a record number of participants, visiting dignitaries and volunteers.
Fishers participating in the tournament totaled 160 this year and included honorary co-host Sen. Ted Stevens, along with senators from seven other states: Wayne Allard, Colorado; Kit Bond, Missouri; Susan Collins, Maine; Mike Enzi, Wyoming; Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas; Mitch McConnell, Kentucky; and Pat Roberts, Kansas.
From Alaska, Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer stood in for Gov. Tony Knowles as the other honorary co-host. She led a contingent of state legislators and officials that included Department of Natural Resources commissioner John Shively (who resigned earlier this week); Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue; Sen. Drue Pearce; and Board of Fisheries members.
The government representatives were joined by business executives and others from around the state and nation. They included country music singer Janie Fricke, University of Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum and outdoor author Patrick McManus.
It costs $6,000 for a participant and one guest to enter the classic.
The tourney's top award, the Ted Stevens Classic Champion Angler award, went to Anchorage businessman David Matthews for amassing 146 fishing points, the most in the tourney. For a 51-inch king he caught and released, he also won the Classic Catch-and-Release Cham-pion award. The Classic Champion award went to Ken Ingram of New Jersey, who took a 58-pound king on Saturday. Val Early won the Classic Champion Guide award by coming from behind on the second day to edge her husband Gary. Besides a trophy, Early won a 50-horsepower Yamaha outboard motor.
Several other awards were handed out, including awards for habitat work on riverfront property. Ulmer gave the Eagle award to Allouise Gehrke, MOWK Resorts, Earl and Lois Faulkner, Sterling Elementary School and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The Ted Stevens Kenai River Guardian Award went to retiring Fish and Game habitat biologist Gary Liepitz, and the KRSA Professional Sportsmen Award was given to guide Andy Szczeny. The Classic Volunteer of the Year award went to Dave and Jane Stein, Dan and Kathy Gensel and their daughter Andrea.
"A great deal of credit for the success of the 2000 Classic is due to the more than 100 dedicated volunteers who gave so selflessly their time and work," Huber said.
Much of the money raised by the classic goes toward habitat restoration and protection. The last six events provided nearly $2 million toward those projects. Huber said he expects the cost of this year's classic could be up to $250,000.
"That includes $30,000 to $35,000 to local bed and breakfasts, $30,000 to $35,000 to local river guides, and facility rental, and we use a local caterer," Huber said.
Overall, KRSA chair Rik Bucy said he was pleased with the result of this year's event.
"We can now look forward to continuing our work with state and federal resource agencies, local governments and nonprofit agencies on behalf of the Kenai River we all love so much."
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