The Eighth Annual Kenai River Classic invitational fishing tournament will go down in the year 2001 record books for being the first Classic to raise over $1 million. Additionally, the event brought more visiting dignitaries, participants, and community volunteers than ever before, according to Brett Hueber, Executive Director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Inc. (KRSA)
The fundraising event was originally the idea of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens to benefit the habitat restoration, fishery conservation and public aquatic education efforts of KRSA on the Kenai River and surrounding watersheds.
Since its inception in 1994, the Classic has raised and dedicated over $2 million toward KRSA's mission of protecting riparian habitat, providing education and promoting responsible sportfishing. "The generosity of the sponsors and participants of this year's Classic is a testament to the unrivalled magnificence of the Kenai River and its fisheries," said Brett Huber, KRSA Executive Director. "The dedication to the resource shown by Classic participants and volunteers alike is truly remarkable."
Honorary Classic co-host, Senator Ted Stevens, four of his colleagues from the United States Senate (Conrad Burns - Montana; Mike Enzi - Wyoming; Tim Hutchinson - Arkansas; Mitch McConnell - Kentucky) and four members of President Bush's cabinet (Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta; FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh; and EPA Administrator Christie Whitman) led some 180 participants for two days of tournament fishing Friday and Saturday.
Honorary co-host Governor Tony Knowles headed a contingent of state officials including Senate President Rick Halford, Speaker Brian Porter and Commissioner Frank Rue (ADF&G), Alaska Board of Fisheries Chairman Dan Coffey and Vice Chair Ed Dersham.
Rounding out the field were some of the top corporate executives at the state and national level and Classic celebrity guests. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, renowned author and historian Stephen Ambrose, pop/country recording artists Michael Johnson and Joni Harms, and former University of Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum.
This year's banquet featured the presentation of the 2000 Kenai Eagle Awards by Governor Knowles. This year's Eagle Award winners honored for habitat work on their private riverfront parcels were Gary and Linda Daniels, Edward and Dinah Meyer, James and Judy Moore and Derhyl and Sylvia Dennis.
The Kenai Eagle Awards recognize private property owners and public land managers for exemplary efforts in restoring and protecting Kenai River habitat. Other banquet highlights included the presentation of the "Ted Stevens Kenai River Guardian Award" to former KRSA Chairman, State Senator and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Don Gilman.
"Classic Volunteer of the Year" award honors were presented to Cyndi Varsos, wife of Alaska Balladeer Hobo Jim.
"A great deal of the credit for the success of the 2000 Classic is due to the nearly 200 dedicated volunteers who give so selflessly their time and hard work," noted Huber. "The Classic has grown into more than just a Kenai River Sportfishing Association event -- it's now considered a community-wide accomplishment."
Classic Champion Guide honors and an outboard motor provided by Yamaha Marine, Prime Sponsor of the 2001 Classic, went to Classic guide Joe Hardy.
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