Community prepares for Tight Lines for Troops

The 4th Annual Tight Lines for Troops Veterans Fishing Tournament will be held on Saturday, April 18. More than 389 veterans from 175 communities around the state will be in Manistee to participate.

MANISTEE — It started as an idea more than four years ago. Now, the annual Tight Lines for Troops charity fishing tournament for veterans is a Manistee institution.

On May 18, thousands of veterans and spectators from across the state will come to Manistee to experience the fourth annual Tight Lines for Troops.

This year’s event will be the biggest yet, with more than 389 veterans — 50 of whom served in the Korean War and World War II — fishing from 60 boats. Since the event started in 2009, it has nearly doubled in size.

“It’s much bigger than I had ever dreamed of it being,” said Bob Guenthardt, one of the tournament’s organizers. “It’s taken on a life of its own. It keeps getting bigger every year.”

Guenthardt and other volunteers on the Tight Lines for Troops committee work year-round to deliver the event as smoothly as possible. From logistics, to food and fundraising, is all done for the veterans.

This year, the veterans represent 175 communities from around the state and will pay no charter fees, entry fees or banquet fees. Priority is given to Purple Heart recipients, disabled veterans, prisoners of war, World War II veterans and Korean War veterans.

The event starts at 6 p.m. Friday with a dinner meeting for all captains and Tight Lines participants at Seng’s Marina. The next day, participants will meet at 5:30 a.m. to prepare to load the boats with a 6:30 departure time.

After a morning of fishing, the boats will gather outside the pier heads at 12:30 p.m. for the boat parade down Manistee River to Seng’s Marina.

“We had thousands of people on the riverwalk and along the piers when we came in (last year),” Guenthard said. “That is probably the highlight of the event. It’ll bring tears to your eyes. You’ll see guys crying on the boat. It happens every year.”

According to Guenthardt, nearly everything for the event is donated, allowing his organization to make sizable donations to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Michigan Chapter; the Brain Injury Association of America; and the Manistee County Community Foundation Veterans Endowment Fund.

After the boats return to Seng’s Marina, the banquet and awards ceremony begin at 2:30 p.m. at the marina. There will be a dinner at 2:30 p.m., awards at 3 p.m. and a closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m. According to Guenthardt, the plan is to feed around 800 people.

New this year, the downtown Manistee community will be hosting a “Downtown Salute” to cater to those who don’t go out on the boats. The day-long event will feature a farmers market, a car show and an Art of the Military exhibit.

“They’ve done the Tight Lines for Troops for a few years now, but we decided to try to get the downtown merchants involved with that,” said Downtown Salute organizer Bev Johnson.

The farmers market will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot on Memorial Drive. It will offer agricultural products, prepared foods, live entertainment and samplings from the Manistee Community Kitchen. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the fountain on River Street, there will be a Customs-N-Classics Car Club show. Lastly, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Hardy Hall in the Ramsdell Theatre, the Manistee Art Institute will host an “Art of the Military” show featuring art submitted by Michigan veterans and their families.

Individual merchants are expected to have patriotic themed specials, as well.

“We’d like to get the people who come down with the veterans to take a walk downtown and take advantage of a few things that are going on,” Johnson said.

At 12 p.m., spectators are encouraged to line the riverwalk to welcome the veterans back from a day of fishing. Spectators may bring their own flag or one will be provided. To reserve a spot on the riverwalk, contact Dianna Wall at (231) 723-2575.

“I would encourage all the folks in Manistee to be down by the pier heads around noon when we come in, because it’s quite a show,” Guenthardt said. “You’re going to see some really happy veterans coming in, I guarantee you. It means a lot to them.”

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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