Let the Games Begin
Event organizers and business leaders are bracing for a busy weekend in Palatka as the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Bass Tournament kicks off its 30th edition this week.
The event — dubbed the second largest bass tournament in the country — has raised $4 million to date for programs and equipment at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.
This year, with 600 people expected to register for the three tournaments scheduled today through Saturday, organizers and its sponsors are looking to raise more money than in previous years.
“Our goal is (to) raise $300,000 or exceed it, and we’re getting close to that target,” said Brian Seay, tournament chairman.
Palatka business leaders are expecting a flurry of customers pouring into city shops near the riverfront as anglers and fans stay in the city.
It’s difficult to accurately predict the tournament’s economic impact, but some estimates say about $2 million was spent in the county during last year’s event, said Dana Jones, president of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.
Those figures are determined by guessing how many people stay in Palatka hotels and the duration of their stay, as well as a multiplier that assumes spending habits at other businesses like supermarkets or barbershops, she said.
“People think economic impact is just about hotels and restaurants, but it’s not like that,” Jones said. “Profitable tourism helps everyone, and the trickle-down effect gets lost in explaining how these tournaments benefit the community.”
It’s the tournament’s third decade of being hosted in Palatka, known as the bass capital of the world for its access to the St. Johns River.
Coordination between Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the Chamber of Commerce has proven pivotal to its longevity in the city, Jones said, something organizers agree keeps the tournament coming back.
“There are great facilities (in Palatka), and the chamber has always been helpful. So it makes a lot of sense to have the tournament there,” Seay said.
The tournament kicks off today with its Lads and Lasses event, where first-place and big bass prize winners will be awarded $1,000. Friday will be the VIP Friends tournament.
Saturday will be the tournament’s main event, which will feature over 400 boats.