McGowan put her beer down for a few minutes during the kick-off party to explain how it all went down. "I said, 'Look, hey, I'm back. I need ya.' They all said 'OK.' I never once heard, 'Hey, it's a bad economy. I can't do it.' It was more like, 'I can't give you $10,000 like last time, but I can pitch in $2,000.'"
McGowan had to fight back tears as she reflected on the generosity.
"The marine community and fishermen are really attached to this event," she continued. "It's a part of Fort Lauderdale. A lot of the participants remember coming with their fathers and grandfathers. It used to be a twice-a-year event, a way to kick off and send off the tourist season."
In recent years, McGowan says the fishing tournament required about $50,000. This year, thanks in large part to donated services and items, she says it's squeaking by on a lot less. All entry fees go toward the cash prizes, with everything else -- raffle items, food, etc -- donated by local restaurants and businesses. Single-day registration for Saturday runs at $395, with cash prizes of $4,000 for the largest of each of the following fish: Dolphin, Tuna, Wahoo, and Kingfish. For more details, check out this website.
The kickoff party, held under a tent, was packed. Sunburned
fishermen downed free Cruzan rum cocktails and grub from Bimini
Boatyard while a band belted the sort of tunes you'd expect to hear at
any dockside bar (think Margaritaville). Raffle items
included "multi-size de-hooker kits" and other specialized
creations that any landlubber couldn't possibly have a use for. And,
for the briefest of moments, it felt like the economy wasn't totally in the crapper.