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Governor's Fishing Opener: Nisswa ready to serve 5,000 at free community picnic

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Finally, the ice is out and the Grand Fishing Opener is here.

To kick off festivities for the 67th annual Governor’s Fishing Opener on Gull Lake, downtown Nisswa is ready to host an estimated 5,000 people Friday afternoon, May 9, for a free community picnic.

A huge tent has been set up on Main Street and organizers are preparing to serve up to 5,000 free meals of pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce, baked beans, coleslaw, chips, water and ice cream cups.

“It’s going to be a full afternoon and evening of events,” said Eric Peterson, picnic co-chair with Tina Foster.

The picnic starts at 4 p.m., when Gov. Mark Dayton and others will speak. Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon and other state leaders and commissioners are scheduled to attend events. All Friday events are free and open to the public.

“We have about 60 exhibitors that will be showing up to promote their involvement in the fishing opener and supporting Nisswa with pulling this big event together,” Foster said. “Every exhibitor will have some fun games or something family-friendly, so bring the kids.”

Main and South Main streets in Nisswa will be closed Friday for the event. There will be access to Triangle convenience store and Dairy Queen. Vehicles can park along any downtown city street, or use parking and shuttle service at the Pine Trail homes subdivision off County Road 18.

The picnic is scheduled from 4-8:30 p.m. Local bands will play, including the Forestview Middle School seventh-grade Jazz Band, Whitney Cougar Roggenkamp, Collin Smith and Seth Doud, followed by the Gear Daddies from 8:30-10 p.m. The night will cap off with a short fireworks display.

More than 300 volunteers have turned out in force to help with the picnic, ranging from 4-H clubs to Boy Scout troops, civic organizations to church groups, corporations to nonprofit organizations, high school sports teams to firefighters. Nisswa Elementary School students are providing decorative fish of Minnesota they made to hang in the tent.

“On behalf of the Nisswa community, we are honored to be hosting the 67th annual Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener, and super excited to be showcasing our downtown Nisswa business district,” said Shawn Hansen, Nisswa chamber president/CEO. “We have a fantastic crew of over 330 volunteers helping with the picnic and we invite you to join us for this great celebration.”

Area fishing hosts will guide the governor, lieutenant governor and various media representatives on Saturday, May 10, on Gull Lake for the walleye and northern pike fishing opener. Ray Gildow will host Dayton and Toby Kvalevog will host Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Both are professional fishing guides in the Brainerd lakes area.

At 7 p.m. Saturday at Grand View Lodge, the 2014 Larson Boat package vaued at $38,110, will be raffled. Tickets will be sold through Friday for $5 each. For more information on the raffle, visit

In general, lakes are running a week earlier than last year and a week later than the median dates regarding ice-out, according to the Minnesota State Climatology Office. Last year, most of Gull Lake was ice-covered on the fishing opener. Two years ago, ice was out in late March.

According to the state climatology office, Gull Lake average ice-out date is April 21; the earliest ice-out date was March 26, 2012; and the latest ice-out date was May 18, 1950.

The 67th Governor’s Fishing Opener is sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber with host property Grand View Lodge and in collaboration with the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce. Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state’s tourism promotion office, organizes this event each year in coordination with a host community.

Nancy Vogt can be reached at Follow her at and on Twitter @PEJ_Nancy.