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Mud & catfish: Two reasons people flock to Genoa City Days



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IF THE WATER level at Nippersink Creek gets any lower, David Robinson said it’s possible the fishing derby may not return to Genoa City Days. But he said the plan is to have it. The derby is part of the three-day event sponsored by the Genoa City Lions Club, which also features a parade, bingo and live music.

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Schuren (click for larger version)
July 31, 2012 | 02:41 PM
GENOA CITY — The strip of torn earth near the baseball diamond in Veterans Park was cracked and paled Wednesday afternoon, July 25, as another blast of summer sun and heat went to work on what is expected to become a pudding-like mass of mud this weekend.

That's when people will attempt to run their four-wheelers and ATVs through the Mud Bog, which is considered to be one of the most popular aspects of the Lions Club's annual Genoa City Days event.

An event which, this year, turns 30.

"I didn't think it would go this long," said Chuck Schuren, who has chaired the event for the last 28 years. "It started out with one of the Lions Club members, a man by the name of George Jacobson. He said we should do something for the kids."

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He said that's been the club's drive with Genoa City Days over the last three decades. The end result is an event which boasts a history of numerous different features — carnival rides, helicopters and elephants, even lawn mower racing.

But two things people have come to expect out of Genoa City Days are the Mud Bog and the fishing derby.

One of them is a sure bet this weekend, while the other is expected to make a welcome return.

On Friday, July 27, Ken Parker — the man who's making the Bog nice and muddy — said the weather won't be a problem. In fact, Parker said digging the Mud Bog this year hasn't been as stressful as it has been in the past. He said he started digging the Bog early this year because it's been so dry outside.

"Now we're finally getting to a point where this is not so much of a learning experience," Parker said. "Usually, I'm really, like, I hate even the thought of doing it the whole week before, until we get to that Sunday (for the four-wheeler event). Then I'm fine. But this year, it just seems like everything is in place."

Last year, the fishing derby wasn't in place.

But in a July 25 interview, David Robinson, owner of Robinson's Wholesale Bait, said the low water level in Nippersink Creek may prevent the derby from making its return to Genoa City Days.

"This may be one reason why we couldn't do it, but the plan is that we will do it," Robinson said.

Then again, there is a lot which goes into this derby.

Arkansas catfish

"It's not easy to bring catfish out of Arkansas," Robinson said. "It's pretty involved."

He said typically, they have between 300 and 400 pounds of catfish shipped from Pillowfish Farm in Paragould, Ark.

"The same farmers that raise our bait fish also raise catfish," Robinson said.

He said each fish is about a pound, meaning 300 to 400 fish go into Nippersink Creek before the derby Saturday. But no, people won't have e chance to fish them out prior to the derby. Robinson said village police help monitor the creek so that derby contestants — children — get the first crack at these fish from the South.

Despite the way summer feels to a Wisconsinite, Robinson said there's a key difference in our climate than the one in Arkansas.

About 30 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

"If we don't haul them up here properly, warm them up too fast or stock them too soon … you could shock the fish," Robinson said.

To bring the fish's core temperature down, they are transported to Keystone Hatcheries.

Given all the variables, Robinson said it's rare that something goes wrong. However, he conceded that some years are better than others in terms of kids catching fish during the derby.

But why go through all this trouble?

"I think fishing is one of the most affordable and pleasant things you could do," Robinson said. "I don't think kids are exposed to fishing as much as they used to be (and) I would rather have my kids fishing than sitting in a house on a nice day not doing anything."

Robinson appears to be a man of his word. Instead of sitting inside somewhere during the derby, he can often be found working the event, either bringing volunteers refreshments or helping to run the contest.

"It's important for kids to fish and it's a blast to watch them," he said. "I've heard from people, they have come up to me and said, once they fished this event, that's how they started fishing on their own."

A dirty senior project

Robinson said Schuren "probably talked him into" having the derby during Genoa City Days. Parker, on the other hand, said his younger brother, Larry, came to Schuren with the idea to do the Mud Bog. Ken said it was Larry's senior project for Badger High School.

Some may believe it should be easy to organize this event. Simply put, you dig, you water, you wait until the ATV riders arrive on Saturday, four-wheelers on Sunday.

Right?

Wrong.

Parker said he 90 percent of what he needs to ensure the Mud Bogs each year is volunteer support, be it people to help run the event, to help dig, or people to loan him the equipment. He said he is only able to work on the Mud Bogs during weekends.

"Usually, my biggest fear is not having it done in time," he said.

Yet there's never been a year when that has happened.

Still, Parker said he usually complains about doing it until it's his turn to take part in the fun of running a vehicle through the mud. He said then, when it's all done, Schuren will ask him if they can count on the Mud Bogs next year -- after all, the Bog draws an estimated 1,000 to Genoa City Days — and he always agrees.

Why? Parker said part it is the positive feedback.

But he gave another answer which reminds us he also is a civic-minded village trustee.

"In my eyes, especially being on the village board, it's good to be seen putting in your time," Parker said. "I'm not doing it because I'm working for the village. I'm doing it because I care about the village."

In past years, Schuren has also professed his love for Genoa City is what drives him as event chairman. He said people should go to Genoa City Days "to have fun with their kids and have fun in their community."

Does he think Genoa City Days will last another 30 years? He gave an optimistic "sure."

Schuren also made a request from the public.

"We want ideas for the future," he said. "Give us something new to do. Give us a challenge."

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