Twenty five years in, two of the community’s largest events continue to both flourish and shine the spotlight on Atikokan. MPP Bill Mauro congratulated the volunteer organizers of last weekend’s 4×4 Mudfling and this week’s Bass Classic on their 25th anniversary milestone.
Since their launch, both events have grown exponentially, particularly in the past five years, and the province (along with the Town) has supported that recent growth. The Mudfling received about $111,000 in 2009 through a larger $737,000 grant the Charleson Recreation Area received from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. Those funds helped the 4×4 Mudslingers Club purchase barricades for the racing area, upgrades and new timing equipment.
In 2008, the Bass Classic received just over $51,000 to help in its $100,000 project to relocate and double the size of the tournament, which involved moving it from Dashwa-Crowrock-Turtle chain of lakes to Marmion Lake and increasing the teams from 55 to 110.
Both events were founded in 1987. The Mudfling was started by a 16 year-old Eddie Boyko as an Atikokan Sports Days event. When the Sports Days ended, the SnoHo Club took over running the Mudfling for a few years. In 2000 the Mudslingers Club formed, and in 2007 the Barnard family began organizing the event. Since then the event has tripled the number of drivers, trucks and spectators, expanded the racing class divisions, and added more children’s activities during race days to offer an event for the whole family. Bringing in some guest racers and their high powered vehicles has also helped attract larger crowds.
Last September the event earned a Mayor’s Spirit of Atikokan Culture Award for Outstanding Event in Recreation, and this past spring the Barnard family (Melvin, Cathy, Ryan, Jesse and Amber) was recognized for a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador’s Award for their promotion of the community through the Mudfling. The Charleson racing mud pit remains the only one in northwestern Ontario, and the races earned national media coverage in 4WDrive Magazine last year.
The fishing tourney, originally dubbed the Phil Sawdo Memorial, was held on Nym Lake until moving to the Dashwa system in 1994. Before its move to Marmion in 2008, the popular event was traditionally booked solid a year in advance. This weekend’s Bass Classic is now fully booked; while it has consistently seen over 100 teams each year this marks a record year for participation, noted ABC’s Lisa Johnson.
In addition to doubling the number of teams, and the prize payout, with the move to Marmion, organizers have also sought to organize a full week of family events that kick off with the Mudfling and wrap up with the Classic. The August 13-18 week features daily events for all ages. As part of the event’s expansion, the ABC has also sought corporate sponsorship to help the event become sustainable, and this year they have been successful in bringing in nearly $20,000 of the total $47,900 in prize payout – along with donations to support bass welfare and children’s activities and numerous in-kind donations.
The Atikokan Economic Development Corp. now estimates that the event brings over $1 million into the community, and the AEDC’s support earned the agency an Ontario Assoc of Community Futures Development Corporations’ award of excellence.
The tourney is set to be in the international media spotlight again this year. For the fourth year, the host and camera person of the Outdoors in the Heartland television show will return to both fish and tape the event. The outdoor show is aired to some 125 million households in Canada and the Midwest US.
MPP Mauro noted that at a time when so many volunteer groups were struggling to survive, these organizers deserve a lot of credit for their work to not only put on a fun event year after year, but also in continual promotion of the community far and wide.