Fair Will Be Crawling And Swimming With Wildlife

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Imagine a world where you don't need a fishing license, bait and tackle are supplied for free, and there are three lakes at your feet all freshly stocked with fish.

It's the Arizona Game and Fish Department's 8th Annual Wildlife Fair and Fishing Fest a Green Valley Park event which, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, will once again make the Rim country's anglers feel like they're in heaven.

And this year's festival promises to be bigger and better than ever, Mary Gilbert said. Gilbert is a district biologist for the co-sponsoring U.S. Forest Service.

"One thing that's new is the White Mountain Apache Tribe will be there with their new Mexican gray wolf program. That is going to be very exciting," Gilbert said.

Returning popular freebie features include a basic fishing clinic, a pellet-gun range, virtual shooting and fishing games, a Smokey Bear hot-air balloon, and door prizes.

There will also be educational displays of Arizona's flora and fauna. The Game and Fish Department's Adobe Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is bringing in desert and mountain critters.

Clint Miller also known as "The Snake Man" will be accompanied by his popular Gila monster and bull snake.

The event is designed to acquaint forest users, especially young people, with safe outdoor practices, as well as forest rules and regulations in a fair-like environment.

"It's a come-early-and-bring-the-whole-family kind of event," Gilbert said.

Gilbert estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 people will show up to enjoy this year's festival.

The highlight, though, will be free fishing in all three of Green Valley Park's lakes, which will be freshly stocked with plenty of catchable fish. Those who register can fish for free, bait and loaner poles will be available, and there will even be folks on hand to help bait your hook.

For more information call the Payson Ranger District at 474-7900.

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