By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Wounded veterans will be back in Quincy the first weekend in June for the fourth annual Fishing for Freedom event.
Organizers say the size of the event will depend on how many boaters volunteer their time and talents.
Last year, about 140 boaters participated, guiding 140 veterans who were wounded or served after Sept. 11, 2001. Fishing for Freedom Chairman Glenn Sanders hopes that adding Mark Twain Lake to the mix of fishing venues this year will boost the number of boaters. He knows some boaters who love the lake but who donít want to take a boat out on the Mississippi River, which is expected to continue as the site for most of the fishing action.
ďWe need boaters to step up and say they would like to guide these warriors,Ē said Randy Gengenbacher, who is on the Fishing for Freedom committee.
Dave Ulrich, another of the organizers, said honoring veterans takes precedence at the event.
ďThis is one fishing tournament where the fishing isnít the important thing. Itís all about the veterans,Ē Ulrich said.
The weekend is free for the veterans, with Fishing for Freedom picking up the cost of hotel rooms. A fish fry, trap shoot, band concert and banquet also will keep the participants busy.
Gengenbacher said he got hooked on the tournament when he helped out at the boat docking and fish weigh-in area a couple of years ago.
ďWhen you see that warrior with that smile on their face, itís hard to put into words. Itís worth a lot,Ē he said.
Ulrich said crowds that have gathered down by the Quincy riverfront for those weigh-ins have made the event special for the veterans. And people in towns like Ursa have cheered and waved as boaters and veterans have headed back to Quincy after finishing a day of fishing.
ďItís an amazing weekend. I donít thing Iíve ever worked so hard on anything, but itís so much fun, and itís really special to see how much fun the vets have,Ē Ulrich said.
Some boaters from the area around Camp Lejeune, N.C., plan to be in town to help with the tournament. A group of boaters from Iowa also are planning to participate for the first time.
Fishing for Freedom
In Quincy June 6-8
Registration for veterans, boaters online at www.fishingforfreedomquincy.org
More information from Glenn Sanders at 217-242-1741.