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Festival-goers welcome return of Brown Trout Festival

News Photo by Ben Ackley Assistant Tournament Director Dick Cadarette (left) and Weighmaster Ernie Butterfield (right) set up the awning above the weigh station in the rain on July 15.

ALPENA — With more than a half dozen fishing events, a new car show and nightly live music, the Michigan Brown Trout Festival has returned with a bang in 2021.

The 47th Annual Michigan Brown Trout Festival kicked off Friday and will run until July 25. The tournament started Saturday and will run for the duration of the festival.

The festival will feature the inaugural Optimist Club Car Show on Saturday. This year also sees the return of nightly music, with one artist per night through the 24th.

Kathleen Brege was at the festival and enjoying a bite to eat from one of the vendors on Saturday. She said this year, she intends to spend more time at the festival than in year’s past.

“I think a lot of people took the festival, and the big tent, for granted,” Brege said. “But at least for me, when we didn’t have it last year, it made me appreciate it more. There are great things to do here, especially the entertainment.”

Brown Trout Festival President Peggy Donakowski said the festival won’t be requiring attendees to wear masks.

“I called our local District Health Department No. 4 asking if there was anything we should have here… but there’s nothing this year for us to even post,” Donakowski said. “If [attendees] want to wear the mask, they can wear the mask, but there’s no event here that we have that says you have to be masked to go in.”

Officially, the festival did take place in 2020, but it was largely scaled back to comply with COVID-19 regulations set by the state.

Fishing tournament director Brad MacNeill said the pandemic has made people excited to fish and attend the festival.

“I see a lot more excitement, because everybody’s been holed up in their houses from COVID, and people just want to get out,” MacNeill said. “…I’m seeing a lot of new faces too. It’s bringing ’em out of the woodwork, so that’s a good sign.”

MacNeill said increased payouts and the new tournaments have also increased interest.

The festival will feature two new tournaments — a youth offshore tournament and a three-day high stakes tournament — and the highest payout will be a $10,000 grand prize in the two-day Super Tournament, provided it has enough entrants.

Donakowski said this year will almost be back to normal.

“Both tents will be open, [people] can eat on the grounds, and if they need beverages the bar’s going to be open every day,” Donakowski said.

Evan Woods said he was excited to go to the dueling piano comedy show Saturday. He said each year he usually spends a night or two at the harbor soaking up the entertainment, or watching the fish be weighed in.

“The Brown Trout Festival is part of our summer and gives us something to look forward to,” Woods said. “A lot of people come home to Alpena for the festival and to see friends and family. Without it, summer just wouldn’t be as fun.”

This story is part of the Michigan News Group internship. A collaboration between WCMU and eight newspapers, including the Alpena News. Read more at TheAlpenaNews.com and wcmu.org/alpenanews.

News Staff Writer Steve Schulwitz contributed to this story

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