Back for another opener

Gov. Tim Walz meets with Otter Tail County community members during the Governor’s Hunting Opener in 2019. The governor will return to the county this month for the fishing opener with some community members frustrated after his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns that followed.

With the 2021 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener just a few days away, some local residents have expressed their frustration with why our county is hosting the event. The 73rd edition of the event will definitely be different, in more ways than one. Some in the county are still critical of Gov. Tim Walz’s handling of some of the pandemic-related mandates.

Deputy administrator/communications and external relations director, Nick Leonard said the conversations he had with the two or three people that contacted him were “very healthy.”

“The concern was mostly, not totally understanding what the Governor’s Fishing Opener (and similar events) were, and not actually understanding the purpose of these events,” Leonard said. “They aren’t driven by the governor’s office, they’re driven by the local community, by the cities and counties that put these on.”

Leonard also mentioned that despite what some may think, the fishing opener is not a political event. “This is not about politics, this is actually about economics and trying to do everything we can to support our local businesses and our regional tourism economy. People get it, the concerns are political in nature, and they disagree with the governor. We’ve said from the beginning that the governor’s openings have never been political, whether you’re talking about (former governors) Jesse Ventura, Tim Pawlenty, or Mark Dayton. It’s never been a political event,” Leonard said.

Local resident Dr. Wallace Cole says overall it is a good thing for the county, because the governor is an important figure, but he says he has issues with any kind of a mask mandate, because he believes the Governor is promoting a certain agenda. 

“If we’re going to have one party here, why not have one party from the other side? This is all depending on how our governor keeps wanting to push the issue,” Cole said.

Cole says he believes the science behind the mask mandate is not sound. He and others of the same opinion, believe that Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health are promoting a larger national agenda and following the party line by promoting the mask mandate.

Otter Tail County was scheduled to host the event last year but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the event was postponed. The Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener has been a tradition since 1948 and will be held from May 13-15. According to organizers, the local planning committee has been working hard  to “pandemic proof” the event.  

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