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Winter carnival slated to accompany national-level ice fishing tourney here

January 5, 2012

While many have enjoyed this unseasonably warm -- and relatively snowless -- winter, some area groups will be forgiven if their fingers are crossed for temperatures to drop throughout the month of January.

That's because Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee will play host to a national-scale ice fishing tournament the weekend of Jan. 27 through 29, expected to bring more than 100 teams, and plenty of winter fun for those not interested in ice fishing as well, including a kids' snowman building contest and ice skating camp.

Tony Alioua of the The North American Ice Fishing Circuit (www.naifc.com) approached Culver's Chamber of Commerce this past fall about the event, which will include camera crews shooting footage for the Circuit's television show, "Icemen," which airs on the Versus sports cable network. The Circuit needed funds between $6,000 and $9,000 to help offset costs of crews and other facets of the event, to bring it to Culver.

"We felt it would be great to have it here in the winter," says Chamber president Dawn Brockey. "We want to couple it with a winter carnival. But we tabled it and said (to NAIFC), 'If you're still interested in it next year, we will try to bring in fundraisers."
The Marshall County Visitors Bureau, however, didn't want the opportunity to bring such a high-profile event to the county, to pass. The Bureau donated the requested money, and the tournament was on the schedule.

Locally, the Chamber is handling most of the arrangements for the event, including setting up two dining facilities in Culver to host fishermen and crews both Friday and Saturday evenings. Ginny and Grant Munroe of Culver Lodging have donated a house here for the crew to occupy during the weekend, Brockey adds.

The ice skating camp is slated for Saturday morning, says Brockey; the Chamber hopes it will take place at the town park, with the beach lodge opened up for hot chocolate and breakfast pizza for participants. The NAIFC will cover liability for that and all tournament-related events.

Judges and other professional staff from the tournament will handle regulation of the tournament itself.

"Obviously as a Chamber, we are definitely supporting it," Brockey notes. "One of the Chamber board's goals would be to hopefully bring something to bring people here during the two slowest (winter) months to help local businesses."

Chamber vice president Tony Sellers has done some legwork on the idea of an annual winter carnival, which she notes is an idea tie-in with the Come Alive Outside initiative for children and families to enjoy the outdoors.

Such a carnival, says Brockey, might start small, but in the future it's hoped ice sculptures and an array of winter-related fun could become fixtures of future events, hopefully in the town park. If this year's ice fishing tournament goes well, it may also become an annual Culver event.

The question on the minds of many likely concerns the extremely non-icy state of Lake Maxinkuckee, a body of water not exactly likely to freeze up overnight. The NAIFC has assured the Chamber fishermen will attend -- using boats, of course, rather than ice fishing shanties -- even if the lake remains decidedly wet come the last weekend of January.

"This is a big, national-level event," Brockey explains. "A lot of credit goes to the Marshall County Visitors Bureau. They see this as a good event, not only for Culver, but for the county, to put it on the map a little more."

Local restaurants and businesses will receive promotion through event packets the Chamber plans to give to all the fishermen.

Organizers are seeking around 20 volunteers for Sunday the 29th, to help keep safety watch over the event. Interested persons may contact locally contact Brockey via the Culver Coffee Company, at 574-842-6326, or at culverco@culvercoffeecompany.com.

Those interested in fishing in the tournament may sign up by way of the event website at www.naifc.com.

"They felt like Culver would be a nice community to host the event," Brockey adds, speaking of NAIFC organizers. "The lake is great for fishing -- some of the people who are part of this have fished the lake.

Although we know it's happening quickly this year, our hope is to build on it for future years and create an event for the whole community and businesses in the winter."

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