Since June 2004, kids of all ages have enjoyed fishing in the Neil McKenzie Memorial Youth Fishing Derby on Deer Lake, Polk County, WI. This year has been a most difficult time for each of us during these days of uncertainty. Common sense is being used to make the decision to ask you to be safe, be well, and celebrate Keep Kids Fishin’ in your own way.  You, no doubt,  have assumed our fishin’ derby would not be held this year.

Neil would have turned 90 years old this year, and it’s not hard to imagine what he would be doing…he would be nodding and grinning ear-to-ear egging kids on to tell their stories. Hearing about a kid’s fishing experience or hunting adventure or their seeing an animal in the woods gave his heart wings and made his spirit soar.

Since the derby will not be held this year, families are encouraged to be safe, be well, and take their kids fishing. Whether it’s standing on the shore of a lake or river, finding a public dock or fishing pier, or climbing into a rowboat to be out on the water, do what you can to Keep Kids Fishin’ and telling their stories.  In honor of Neil’s 90th Birthday, the many volunteers who guided kids, served food, drove boats/pontoons, and donated to this annual event will be pleased to know that kids are continuing with this tradition with their families over the summer.

The Neil McKenzie Memorial Youth Fishing Derby has provided a free day of learning and fishing on the water for kids since June 2004. Co-sponsored by The Polk County Sportsman’s Club and family and friends of Neil McKenzie, the event has been supported by businesses, donors, volunteers,  game wardens, lake-home owners, and the New Lagoon Campground and Condominium where the derby has been hosted in recent years. This rite of passage to summer has been a hit for all who have an interest in fishing. Some kids have come for their first exposure to fishing and others have come for several years. It’s the kids’ stories told along the way that make it worthwhile.

Whether or not the kids in your life fished the derby in previous years, you are encouraged to do what you can this summer to get kids in the outdoors and experience nature. Like Neil, you will be amazed at the excitement in the kids’ voices as they tell their stories of seeing an eagle high up in a tree or of their holding on tightly to a wiggly worm while they baited their fishing hook hoping to catch a sunfish. Listen to the sound of the trees; listen to the stories of the kids. It will give your heart wings and make your spirit soar. Thank you for carrying on this tradition and doing what you can to Keep Kids Fishin’ and tellin’ their stories.

Joyce Mckenzie

Kelly Sylte

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