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10 Tuesday April 21 2015 Fort Smith shing derby team steps down after 25 years By MEAGAN WOHLBERG After 25 years Richard and Barb Mer- credi are hoping to do more shing and less organizing at next years annual Fort Smith Fishing Derby. The couple who have been organizing the three-day excuse to head out on a beautiful weekend shing trip since the mid-80s recently announced theyd be passing the torch - or at least the tackle - on to another keen volunteer next spring. But just exactly who is going to step up has yet to be determined. Thats the burning question said Rich- ard. Someones gotta step up to the plate and hopefully they do. The Mercredis took on the task of orga- nizing the derby back in the events infancy when it was a much smaller gathering at Piers Lake. Since then the duo has trans- formed the event into a highly-anticipated three-day community gathering at Natawa Blackman and Jacksh Lakes two hours north of town by snowmobile near the Mer- credis trapline. Throughout the years the Mercredis have had help from a precious crew of com- mitted volunteers including Sholto Doug- las Melvin Fortier Bill Reimer Brent and Norm Dievert and the late Dave Dragon among others. Lauraine Armstrong has been helping Barb do the judging for 15 years. Even some of the kids who used to come out with their parents have grown up and are now bringing their own kids and helping out. The to-do list for the derby is long and begins well before any snowmobiles or planes head out to the site to set up - though thats a big part of it. Barb spends days prior to the derby making over 30 pounds of chili that along with some 300 bannock hot soup and hot dogs keep the fisherfolk warm and fed throughout the weekend. Then theres gathering sponsors for the prize donations and food coordinating ights to the site with Northwestern Air Lease chopping wood marking trail selling tickets setting up tents plus all of the tasks required during the actual event from reg- istering anglers to weighing sh and trans- porting people around. I enjoy the work I like working with people but when youre younger youve got more energy said Richard. Now we want to spend more time at the derby fish- ing ourselves. I want to take my grand- son out. Richard said his favourite memories over the years were easily the few times he won a prize for a sh made rarer by the off- chance he could actually sit at a hole and do any shing. I got I think three wins in 25 years so that proves I dont know where all the sh are he said with a laugh. But if I won every time nobody would go. Barb said she loved to see the kids over the years out having fun. A lot of people bring their kids. Its a fam- ily event. Its nice watching them catch their rst sh she said. The derby has become such a commu- nity event that many people go out just to visit without even dropping a line through the ice. Part of it is just seeing everybody having fun Richard said. Theyll sit around and chew the fat or drive around and hang out eat some chili drink coffee. When people bring in their sh everyone gets excited and comes over wanting to see who caught what and how big it is. Part of the draw he believes is because the area is so picturesque and it gives peo- ple an excuse to take their snow machines out for a ride. A lot of people dont realize how nice it is out there. I mean Fort Smith is a beautiful town but its not like Fort Smith. Its in the Shield he said. Barb said its been a good run but is look- ing forward to taking it easy next year. Ill probably end up helping a bit but there comes a point when you have to let other people take over she said. But Id hate to see it like so many other things go by the wayside. It would be nice to see it kept up. SPORTS RECREATION FISHING Besides being known for her famous chili Barb Mercredi is seen here in her element as the long-standing judge for the Fort Smith Fishing Derby responsible for weighing all the sh registering participants and keeping the event running. Richard Mercredi caps off a 25-year run as organizer of the Fort Smith Fishing Derby with a winning jacksh - one of three times hes won a prize at the event in over two decades of helping to make it happen. Devyn Dievert poses with her winning fish at this years shing derby held Mar. 27-29. One of the youngest anglers at the derby Kowan Modeste shows off his big catch of the weekend. From left Melvin Fortier Ethan Gillis and Richard Mercredi hold the winning catches for the weekend spent at Natawa Blackman and Jacksh Lakes. PhotosBarbRichardMercredi