October 23, 2014

Omer Sucker Derby in jeopardy

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

OMER — The fifth annual Omer Sucker Derby may end up being canceled this year due to a lack of volunteers.

The derby, planned for the first Saturday in April, needs more people willing and able to do the legwork needed to get it organized, according to Larry Daly, who has helped run the event in previous years.

While Daly said organizers always get people willing to help out with the event itself, only a handful of people go to local businesses to help get sponsors and prizes. This year, he said most of those volunteers have been busy with work.

“There’s only two or three people going out and trying to get prizes,” Daly said. “I don’t know if we’ll even have it this year.”

Daly said in past years, buttons sold to participants enabling them to weigh their fish were available through Greg’s Market and Ma’s Girls Café. With the café closed now, however, the derby has taken an organizational blow.

While Daly said organizers could probably sell buttons through stores in other communities, as an Omer event, he would prefer to keep sponsors for the derby as local as possible.

Past derbies have given away prizes from local businesses, such as coupons, free services, or even fishing poles, to the angler with the biggest catch in each age bracket. Prizes were also given out through random drawings through participants’ buttons.

Daly said volunteers have also been needed before the event to set up tents, count the buttons sold, and set up the raffle by noting which button numbers were sold.

He said the derby has been facing other problems, such as a dwindling number of vendors and participants since the derby returned in 2008 after being suspended for over 20 years.

“We had 10-12 vendors when we started,” Daly said. “But last year we only had three.”

Furthermore, the event became focused on kids after the second year, as the number of adult participants began to drop off. Daly said there were roughly 80-120 children participating in last year’s event, less than expected. He said cooler weather may have been a factor, but due to the event’s reliance on the sucker run after the ice clears, the derby needs to run in the first couple weeks of April.

“As soon as the ice opens up the fish are there, going upstream to spawn,” Daly said. “If it’s done later you’ll miss the fish.”

Ultimately, without the volunteers to organize the derby, even the outlook for a smaller event looks questionable, according to Daly. He said the organization is holding a meeting in mid-February to discuss its strategy, and to try and name a new president.

Daly urged anyone interested to helping to contact him at 653-2643.

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