May 18, 2022
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
MARION – Terry Wirth saw all the activities surrounding a Family Fun Day at Beebe last month, the first one put on by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Family and Community Fishing Program since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and knew his upcoming event would be something special.
“I loved it, it was nice,” Wirth said this week. “Last year at our derby, we didn’t do all the BB gun and archery stuff. This is something new to me this year.”
Saturday’s Family Fun Day at the pond within the Marion Recreational Complex will have all the works, from fishing to food to health and wellness screenings and more. Besides the fishing for the family, AGFC personnel will be on hand for the BB shooting, archery, canoeing, wild game and fish cleaning and cooking demonstrations, and music. Lunch is provided. All participants have to do is register to attend, and already Wirth is expecting 2,000 people, young and older, in attendance Saturday. The event runs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and the pond and sports complex is located behind Marion High School at 3820 Complex Road.
“I always wanted to do one of these events,” Wirth, a pipefitter with River City Sprinklers in West Memphis, said. “A friend of mine was involved in one that the church put on here. That is where this originated. I picked it up on my own last year. I wanted to get the community involved.”
Wirth reached out to Maurice Jackson, the AGFC’s coordinator of the Family and Community Fishing Program, for help turning the smaller event into a much larger endeavor. He applied online for his first event last year, which included a fish stocking. Wirth said that fishing derby drew “at least 1,500 kids, for sure.” That set the stage for this year, which has been a full year in planning, he said.
With COVID-19 protocols relaxed in 2022, the FCFP has been able to return to its regular Family Fun Day activities around the state.
“Terry has been instrumental in making this event a success,” Jackson said. “We're talking about providing food, water and outdoor fun to more than 1,000 attendees. I wish we had someone like him in every county. Having conservation partners such as Terry allows AGFC to extend its reach and presence in communities around the state.”
Esperanza Bonanza, a group that includes Wirth and other local volunteers, is a sponsor along with River City Sprinklers, the local 4-H and Marion Minor Medical, a local clinic. “I can’t thank the Esperanza team members enough for all the hard work they did,” Wirth said.
Wirth recalls learning to fish with his cousins as a child. He and a friend now enter crappie tournaments – “nothing serious,” he added – and Wirth tries during the summer to get out on the water fishing every weekend, when work allows. He also has a 7-year-old son, Tanner, the youngest of Wirth’s six children, who enjoys fishing with dad. “He was out there (at the derby) last year.”
Mark Rose, a pro angler on the Major League Fishing circuit from Wynne and a close friend of Wirth, has donated a variety of prizes to be given away Saturday. “He’ll be in a tournament this time, but I’m going to try to get him out there next year,” Wirth said. Hot dogs, chips and drinks also will be available.
Anyone can sign up for the event at register-ed.com/events/view/181315. Anglers 16 years of age and older will need to have an Arkansas fishing license.