“In three short days, we have managed to turn a catastrophe into a silver lining in all this,” said Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce President Nicole Kochensparger.
The festival was canceled over Memorial Day weekend after Friday’s storm, which packed gale force winds and sent waves crashing over break walls in the lakefront community.
The city’s downtown area and Waterworks Park, where the annual Walleye Festival had started the night before, were flooded. Organizers said they had no choice at the time, but to cancel the remaining three days.
“We couldn’t get water out of this park for anything and we couldn’t let anybody in the park because there was risk of electrocution. We had water on top of power lines, so it was frustrating on all levels,” Kochensparger said.
After consulting with vendors, organizers decided to give it another try and the rest of the 2021 Walleye Festival is scheduled to get underway on Thursday at 5 p.m.
“Part of me thinks that it’s going to be better than what we could have had last weekend. I mean, the outpouring of love and support from not only our community, but communities all around us that have reached out, offered to lend a helping hand,” Kochensparger said.
The cancellation of the festival would have been a bitter pill to swallow after last year’s festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be able to get out of the house, not only recover from COVID, but recover from what we all experienced last weekend is reason to celebrate,” said Port Clinton Mayor Mike Snider.
Another year without the festival would have been a major economic loss for the city. Each year, it draws 26,000 visitors and generates $3.8 million in revenue.
Vendors who decided to ride out the storm in the Port Clinton this week are now banking on the 2021 Walleye Festival Part II.
“We’re coming out of the worst possible year since the Great Depression that our family’s ever been through and so we’ve grabbed at everything we can all year. We love the festival and the community, and quite frankly, we love the money,” said Matt Gallapoo, perch and walleye vendor.
The hours of the Walleye Festival are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 11a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.