FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Deputy Otter Tail County Administrator Nick Leonard said he's fielded several phone calls from residents asking why Otter Tail County is hosting the 2021 Governor's Fishing Opener May 13-15.

In the 2018 gubernatorial election, Otter Tail County went solidly for the Republican candidate, and Gov. Tim Walz is a Democrat. Walz has been criticized in parts of the county for his pandemic-related mandates.

Leonard told Otter Tail County commissioners on Tuesday, April 27, that the annual fishing opener is an economic event, not a political one. The Otter Tail Lakes Country Association, which represents more than 200 local businesses, applied to have the event here and will provide great exposure for the county, he said. It was supposed to take place in Otter Tail County in 2020 but was canceled because of the pandemic.

The association board discussed the event, he said, and decided that turning it down would be inappropriate given the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would provide to hard-hit hotels and restaurants, as well as more than $1 million in media exposure.

He said the locals have encouraged the governor's office to keep things as traditionally done, with invitations extended to House and Senate leadership.

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"It's a good opportunity to get folks into a boat to talk about catching walleye instead of what's happening in St. Paul," he said.