Tanner’s Lake festivities move to Walton Park

Another on a stringer of ice fishing contest cancellations

If Mother Nature, or King Boreas, or whoever it is who controls Minnesota winters doesn’t want to play fair, the organizers of the former Tanners Lake Ice Fishing Contest will just play their trump card: moving the festivities to solid land.

“After a 20-or-more-year tradition of ice fishing on Tanners Lake and calling it off twice in five years, we’re pretty much throwing our hands up,” would-be fishing contest organizer Marc Cove explains. “We’re gonna have a picnic, the raffles, a huge bonfire, hay rides and free food at Walton Park instead. That’s where Oakdale Summerfest is always held.”

The new celebration, called, appropriately, “Winterfest,” will take place from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.

The event also marks new cooperation between civic and city groups; the Oakdale Business and Professional Association, which historically hosted the contest, brought in the city of Oakdale a few years ago to help out. This year, the Maplewood-Oakdale Lions Club will also be involved.

Lions on the other side of Division Street are also roaring over the bizarre January temperatures. Following several weeks of above-freezing weather that actually peaked at 48 degrees Fahrenheit, the North St. Paul Lions canceled their annual ice fishing contest. Instead of heading out onto Silver Lake Jan. 29, the group held its raffles at Neumann’s Bar starting at 4 p.m.

“It’s frustrating to plan a popular event and have it melt away,” says longtime OBPA member Frank Orsello. “The time we canceled it before (in 2002) I think it was like December and we were sitting there watching the waves lap up on Tanners Lake beach.” Asked if he thinks the changes are due to global warming, Orsello says, “I have some reservations with that, but it does make you think.”

If the weather’s unpredictable, organizers say, it only makes sense to be safe. Tom Conlin, chairman of the 2002 contest, remarked at the time, “I just didn’t want to go down in the annals of Oakdale history as the first guy to have someone drown in the annual ice fishing contest.”

The afternoon’s activities at Winterfest will also include ice skating - weather permitting.

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