RIDGWAY--On Saturday, from noon until  3 p.m.the Sandy Beach Park in Ridgway Township will host the 32 annual fishing rodeo. This event is an opportunity for people with special needs to enjoy the day fishing for trout all over the area. Various special-needs organizations and their families helped to transport clients to the event. The participants are very excited to get back out as the event was canceled last year due to COVID-19. 

A combined effort of the Ridgway Township Recreation Board, The Ridgway-Elk County Chamber of Commerce, The Handicap Fish Rodeo Organization, the Domtar Fish Hatchery, and the Pennsylvania Fishing Commission come together to bring this event to the Elk County area.  This community event began in 1987 and had been gaining popularity every year. For the first time in 2019, Sandy Beach opened its gates to teachers, counselors, and parents, with the site especially suited to the event with the disabled trails installed near the creek.  The Handicapped Fish Rodeo has numerous long-serving volunteers but never says no to anyone looking to assist.

"The fishing rodeo is a bunch of kids getting together, throwing their lines in the water, and reeling in whatever they can. It's a lot of untangling of line, there are many patient volunteers who do nothing but untangle lines, bait the hooks, and just help the kids. even though we do have trophies– I just think everybody's a winner," Mark Enyedy, head of the Handicapped Fish Rodeo said at the event in 2019. The rodeo was canceled in 2020, and the organization suffered a great loss with Enyedy's death in August of the past year, but his family was committed to bringing back the event for 2021.

"This event almost didn't happen. I was at my wit's end when we lost the other location," said Enyedy. "Then the first place that was recommended to me was Ridgway Township, and Michell (Bogacki) and the Rec Board were all so welcoming that I think this will be our home for many years to come."

"We were happy to do it," said Michelle Bogacki, Secretary/Treasurer of Ridgway Township. "And serving the community is one of the purposes behind Sandy Beach Park, so it's a great fit."

"This is the high light of some of these participant's summer," said Mildred Bowers, Ridgway Township Supervisor, "I just love seeing all the smiling faces enjoying fishing as much as I do."

A local bait vendor donates the bait, and the organization provides the fishing equipment. The volunteers also bring their extra rods.  No fishing license is required for the special-needs groups, and the park will allow regulation-sized fish to be taken home. However, it will be at the discretion of the counselors, teachers, and parents that decide if their kids get to keep the fish. All proceeds from the raffle go to fund the next year's event.

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