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Fairmont to host 2020 pheasant opener

FAIRMONT — Fairmont has been selected to host the 2020 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener.

Dates for the opening weekend are Oct. 9-11, 2020, with the official kickoff at 9 a.m. Oct. 10.

Announcement of next year’s host city was made at the 2019 Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener banquet Friday night in Austin, host of this year’s opener. Representatives from Fairmont are in Austin this weekend to participate in the event and learn more about the numerous ways the opener can showcase a community.

In 2018, Fairmont submitted a bid, albeit an unsuccessful one, to host this year’s pheasant opener. The process of organizing the proposal started a conversation between Visit Fairmont and the Martin County Pheasants Forever Chapter about how to put the area on a statewide stage.

“We have one of the strongest Pheasants Forever chapters in the state. It has really grown in the last 10 years,” said Jason Subbert who chaired the committee to secure the 2020 opener for Fairmont.

“In 2018, the Martin County Pheasants Forever Chapter No. 49 was named Minnesota chapter of the year. In 2019, Joe Maidl, the current president, was named Minnesota Pheasants Forever volunteer of the year,” said Stephanie Busiahn, executive director of Visit Fairmont.

“Our local chapter has been doing a lot of great things throughout the area, even outside of pheasant hunting. They’ve been doing lake cleanup, youth events, the pollinator project,” she said. “We were not successful in 2019, but we thought the opener would be a good fit for us so we decided to try to land 2020.”

The Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener was established in 2011, making the 2020 event the 10th annual opener, which focuses on the state’s hunting heritage, culture traditions and the economic impact of the sport while promoting travel and tourism. The opener is a cooperative promotion between the host community, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Explore Minnesota Tourism, providing the host city with an opportunity to highlight area hunting and other recreational activities, attractions and points of interest.

“We are not going to see droves of hunters flock to the area for the weekend,” Busiahn said. “It’s about putting a spotlight on our community. It’s about being able to celebrate Fairmont and Martin County, who we are and what we have to offer in addition to pheasant hunting.”

Subbert said the last time Fairmont was similarly spotlighted on a statewide stage was more than 30 years ago, when the city hosted the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener in May 1987.

“But that was a much bigger event and required a lot more funding,” he said.

A host community for the GPHO is responsible for creating its own budget and raising funds through local, regional, state and national sponsorships. Local committees will be formed in December with “hard core” planning beginning in January, Busiahn said.

“Explore Minnesota Tourism has a plan laid out, and they will facilitate and guide us through the process,” she said.

“They will make sure we are in good shape along the way,” Subbert said. “Right now, we have a loose formation of a committee, but we are going to need a lot more hands on deck.”

“Each community can form and model this event for what the community wants it to be,” Busiahn said. “We can utilize this event to have other events that the community can support and rally around.”

Austin, for example, has slated community concerts and ag-related events.

“Explore Minnesota and the DNR are in control. They are the pilots. Our role is to help pull the groups together, to get the plane in the air and landed that day,” Subbert said.

“There will be an opportunity for everyone to get involved at some level,” he added.

Subcommittees will be formed for sponsorships, entertainment, the hunting experience, securing private land for the hunt, guides with dogs and other areas.

“This isn’t just about a hunt,” Subbert said. “This is about a celebration of Fairmont on a statewide stage. With all of the things that are going on in our community that have been a challenge, this is something that we can come together and work on together that will help Fairmont and Martin County in a positive way. That’s the spotlight we want to put on this.”

“We have a great community. There’s a reason why we live here. At the end of the day, isn’t that the message that we want to send people?” Busiahn said.

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