Creators of Walleye Weekend honored on 40th anniversary

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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - An estimated 70 to 80 thousand people are expected to be in Lakeside Park in Fond du Lac this weekend for Walleye Weekend festivities.

Ceremony honoring Walleye Weekend founders
Permanent benches are installed in honor of the founders of Walleye Weekend (WBAY photo)

On Friday, two people instrumental in creating and putting on the first Walleye Weekend 40 years ago were honored with benches in their name.

Jo Ann Ward brought the fishing tournament to Fond du Lac in 1978 which today brings in 600 contestants.

"We were looking for something special for community identity, and I thought it's a forever festival," Ward said. "This is our civic celebration, so we designed it that way."

Tom Hierl was also honored with a bench. He was the first co-chairman of Walleye Weekend.

"It became a staple quite quickly, and I suppose there were some lulls," Hierl said, "but, like everything else, when people are having fun they just kind of look forward to next year and the next year after that."

The festival director Leanne Doyle says it's important to build off that history but to keep creating new attractions to keep these crowds coming back.

"We 'rotate the crops' is what we call it," said Doyle.

This year has an additional music stage and new food items among 200 events for generations new and old.

"People went to it 40 years ago, now they're in their 80s, so now they're the grandparents and the great-grandparents of younger generations to it," said Doyle.

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