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Rocking the Governor's Fishing Opener at Robbins Island

Gov. Mark Dayton shows off his Foxhole Brewery T-shirt from the local brewery in Willmar when addressing the crowd at the Rockin’ Robbins Fishin’ Edition event held at Robbins Island Park Friday evening as a part of the Governor’s Fishing Opener weekend. (Erica Dischino / Forum News Service)1 / 3
Wally Van Eps, left, and Sharon Van Eps enjoy the free meal served at the Rockin’ Robbins Fishin’ Edition event while staying dry under the tent in Willmar Friday evening. (Erica Dischino / Forum News Service)2 / 3
London Bazaldua, 2, jumps in an inflatable bounce house at the Rockin’ Robbins Fishin’ Edition event held at Robbins Island Park Friday evening as a part of the Governor’s Fishing Opener weekend. (Erica Dischino / Forum News Service)3 / 3

WILLMAR, Minn. — The weather was a bit uncooperative Friday evening, May 11, for Rockin' Robbins Fishin' Edition, as rain fell on and off. Still, hundreds of people from the local area and across the state converged on Robbins Island in Willmar for a community picnic in conjunction with the traditional Governor's Fishing Opener.

"We are proud of these communities, the way they have put this together, the work they've put in and the crowd they have turned out. In Minnesota we are tough and we can take it," U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who was in attendance at the community picnic, is celebrating his eighth, and final, Governor's Fishing Opener.

"A little sad it's my last one, but that's the way it goes," Dayton said.

Dayton, proudly sporting a T-shirt from the Foxhole Brewhouse of Willmar, thanked all those who put this event on.

"I know the amount of work it takes to put this together," Dayton said. "It is a team effort all the way."

A surprise guest at the event was U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who was joined on stage with other politicians and community leaders.

"I love that this is a bipartisan event, we are all having fun and we know this is one of our state's proudest traditions," Klobuchar said. "We have to see this as part of our tradition and part of what makes Minnesota great, but also a major part of our economy."

Plaques of appreciation were given by the governor to the mayors of Willmar, New London and Spicer, along with the Kandiyohi County Emergency Manager Kim Lindahl and Beth Fischer, executive director of the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"She is the glue that holds the box together of this event," said Rod Staska, co-chairperson of the opener committee.

Renville County's own Dam Jammers provided the music for the evening concert, while hundreds of people were served a free picnic meal. Fittingly enough the band opened their set with the song "Rockin' Robin."

Around the park grounds dozens of organizations and businesses had booths and activities for those of all ages to enjoy.

The community picnic and concert event was only one of the many activities guests and media were treated to on Friday. All day long guests were taken on tours of area sites across Willmar, Spicer and New London.

The fun continues today, as the governor officially opens the 2018 fishing and tourism season on Green Lake in Spicer. The governor's party was to depart from Saulsbury Beach around 8 a.m. for a morning of fishing. Willmar area resident and angler Kelly Morrell was selected to act as Dayton's host on the lake.

A shore lunch is scheduled for participants on Saulsbury Beach and a celebration dinner is to be held at the Willmar Conference Center Saturday evening.

This year's Governor's Fishing Opener is the 71st, having started in 1948. The last time the Willmar Lakes Area hosted the opener was in 1995. The area also hosted in 1975.

"It is about time we hosted this event again," said State Sen. Andy Lang, R-Olivia.