It’s time for Rim Country anglers to gear up for the Sixth Optimist Kids Fishing Festival to be held 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 31 at Green Valley Park.
For those who register, no fishing license is required.
The festival has for the past few years marked the onset of the spring season in the Rim Country. It’s also drawn hundreds of aspiring anglers of all ages — even last year when rain, snow, wind and cold weather greeted the townspeople who braved the elements to fish.
Most importantly, entrants do not need be seasoned anglers to enjoy success because there will be ample guides and experts on hand to share their wisdom. If needed, there will also be rods and reels available for loan, along with bait.
The Optimist Club and Kiwanis members will have burgers, hot dogs and drinks for sale and Scoops Ice Cream will also host a special treats booth.
John Wisner will be on hand, as he is most every year, to create balloon sculptures.
Fish will be weighed and measured for anyone interested and there will be a “Bragging Board” listing names and catches throughout the day.
Raffle tickets for a variety of gifts and services as prizes will be sold and there will be a huge silent auction, featuring an amazing three-story replica of the fire station with miniatures (see at the fire station on Main Street). There will also be a cake walk.
Raffle awards and Silent Auction winners will be announced at 2 p.m.
The festival is a cooperative effort of the Rim Country Optimist Club; Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department; Friends of Parks & Recreation; Payson Apothecary Pharmacy; NAPA Auto Parts; Let’s Talk Fishin’/KCMA Radio; Trout Unlimited; Ann Hunter, photographer; Arizona Game and Fish Department; and John Wisner
The goal of the event is to interest everyone, both young and old, in fishing.
For more information, call Joan Young, public relations for the Optimists, at (928) 472-2264.
McNeeley Foundation to host Casino Day
The Justice McNeeley Foundation, which has a long and rich history of helping out needy children, will be hosting an inaugural benefit “Casino Day” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, April 29 at Sidewinders Saloon in Pine.
The entry fee is $15 per person with additional buy-ins or donations available. Games include black jack, roulette, craps and Texas Hold-em.
The benefit is dear to the heart of Katie Lynn Parks, the mother of the boy — Justice McNeeley — for whom the foundation is named.
While Parks has been active in the benefit for years, she frets that Payson townspeople don’t get involved or participate because they mistakenly believe the funds earned benefit Pine children only.
In truth, the foundation helps more children in Payson than in Pine and Strawberry.
Parks said, “With the economy still down, we are helping more kids than ever.”
The casino event was added to meet the increased demand for financial help.
Most around the Rim Country recognize the McNeeley Foundation’s annual fall poker ride as its most popular benefit. The profits over the years have allowed it to donate more than $3,600 for a trainer to help a disabled boy learn to walk; $5,500 to pay a surgery bill; $5,400 for dental braces; $2,400 to pay a child’s doctor bill; and more than $2,400 for specialized hearing aids.
The foundation debuted seven years ago as a small-town, grass roots effort to earn $8,000-plus to buy a motorized wheelchair for then 5-year-old Justice McNeeley, who suffered from spinal muscular atrophy. Due to the overwhelming success of the original event, organizers decided to continue the benefit poker rides with the goal of helping even more children.