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Lt. Gov. Prettner Solon kicks off fishing opener downtown Brainerd reception

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Two years ago Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon caught more fish during the Governor’s Fishing Opener, but didn’t bring in the biggest one.

This is Prettner Solon’s fourth fishing opener and this year, she’s ready to take the bragging rights on Gull Lake.

“I love to fish,” she said at the Governor’s Fishing Opener reception kick-off in downtown Brainerd. “It gives the governor and I a little chance for a little rivalry out on the lake. I intend to beat him this year.”

Brainerd business owners, city officials and opener organizers hosted the gathering in the SEH offices in the red brick building on South Sixth Street.

The media attention for the opener gives communities an opportunity to highlight their strengths.

Prettner Solon is familiar with the Brainerd lakes area. She’s coming back in a week to vacation, golf and fish.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s a beautiful area. You have beautiful lakes. The community is just wonderful, lots of wonderful shops. It’s really fun to be around here.”

While the fishing action is all about the water, the annual governor’s fishing opener travels well beyond the water’s edge.

Steve Mau, 67th Governor’s Fishing Opener event co-chair, said the effort of the entire committee along with host Grand View Lodge in Nisswa has worked to expand the event from two days to a Thursday, Friday and Saturday event. For the kid’s fishing event, Mau said Gull Lake was like glass.

In addition, media representatives from across the Midwest are getting a taste of what the area has to offer — lakes, fishing, golf, dining, entertainment, spas, racing, biking, shopping and more, perhaps options previously unknown such as the mountain biking or scuba diving or sail boating.

“It’s got a great long-term effect in the community, any exposure is huge,” said Richard Polipnick, Visit Brainerd executive director, of the opener.

Setting up the opener is a year-long event with committee members meeting multiple times a month and preparing to go without sleep this weekend.

Mau said the state’s tourism office estimates the media exposure with the opener is worth $2 million and that doesn’t factor in additional stories that may grab attention from an even larger area. Radio, broadcast and print media will all be on hand for weekend events.

“Shining a spotlight on the area is really the intent,” Mau said.

Gov. Mark Dayton will pick up his fishing license at S & W Bait Shop in Brainerd at 3 p.m. Friday. Dayton and Prettner Solon are expected to speak at the Nisswa Community Picnic at 4 p.m. Friday, May 9.

“Downtown Nisswa is really the community event and it sounds like the weather is going to be good for us and we are looking forward to a really great event,” Mau said.

Friday 65 vendors will be at the community picnic giving away free stuff, Mau said. The event includes live music, free food for 5,000 and fireworks to cap off the night.

“It’s just going to be something,” Mau said. “I think everybody is going to want to be there. We are looking forward to hosting it.”

Matt Kilian, Brainerd Lakes Chamber CEO, said it was important for the chamber to kick-off the three-day fishing opener event in downtown Brainerd. Kilian said after he approached SEH about hosting it, the downtown Brainerd business quickly offered to assist and set up the space to host the gathering. The multi-story SEH office building on its landscaped corner was chosen as an example of downtown revitalization.

“We are very proud to host this event today,” said Scott Hedlund, SEH senior project manager. The employee-owned company chose to locate in downtown Brainerd 10 years ago. Hedlund said it offers a walkable area with government buildings and restaurants nearby. “As staff we just love it. ... We really appreciate being part of the Brainerd community.”

“Get out and see the Brainerd lakes area but we we’d also like to encourage you — it starts downtown that’s why we are here today to focus on the downtown businesses and the opportunities they present and the economic force they are in our area,” said Mike Dillon, of Lexington Manufacturing and Brainerd Lakes Chamber board chairman.

Nancy Williams, Fancy Pants Chocolates in downtown Brainerd, made chocolates for the event. Kevin Matthews, of the Glaze 2 Amaze studio in Brainerd, created a pottery mug with a drawing of Paul Bunyan on it for Prettner Solon on behalf of the downtown businesses.

Downtown Business owner Ed Menk spoke to the group about the downtown area’s history and the opportunity it presented to him 40 years ago for his own business and ongoing opportunities across the community.

“It’s really important to the chamber that when we host an event as big as the Governor’s Fishing Opener in the Brainerd lakes area that we don’t forget about Brainerd — where the community began, the history, the downtown revitalization, the legacy of the community — all of that is really important.

“We just believe in the future and the potential of downtown and the revitalization the commerce that was once there, that is here and what could be again.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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