Nothing Keeps Wabasha, Minnesota from its Grumpy Old Ice Fishing Tradition | Sports Destination Management

Nothing Keeps Wabasha, Minnesota from its Grumpy Old Ice Fishing Tradition

Feb 12, 2021 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

All images courtesy of Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber and CVB
Punxsutawney has a groundhog but Wabasha, Minnesota has grumpy old men.

And as the setting for the 1993 movie of the same name (and its 1995 sequel), the town has long hosted its annual Grumpy Old Men Festival, produced by the Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber and CVB.

And, notes, Lori Glomski, director of the Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber office, the town wasn’t going to let a pandemic get in the way of its 28th annual Grumpy Old Men Festival, which includes the ever-popular Grumpy Old Men Fishing Contest.

“We knew a lot of things were being cancelled but we finally said, “We want to keep this going. We can’t let the Grumpy Old Men Festival die. We’ve downsized it a little this year but we’re still doing it.”

So this year, the festival is on the calendar once again, on February 27, with a variety of activities. The ice fishing contest is a centerpiece of the event, and is held on the Mississippi River, with registration at the Mississippi Parkside Marina.

Oh, and it’s popular.

“We had over 500 people last year,” says Glomski. “It varies from year to year, depending on the weather, but we have our diehards who always come.”

Prizes are awarded for the largest sunfish, crappie and Northern Pike pulled out during the tournament, those being the typical species in the fishery.

There are precautions in place for those who participate. Minnesota’s mandates state that outdoors, groups of 12 or fewer people can participate in events, something Chamber officials will be enforcing at the event. Instead of a line in front of a registration area, everyone will be given a form (and a pencil to fill it out) and officials will collect forms from groups individually. If participants need to move from their fishing area, they must wear masks.

A typical Grumpy Old Men Festival also includes the Grumpy Plunge to benefit Great River Homes, Inc. and Rotary of Wabasha; however, this year’s event has been renamed the Grumpy Challenge, and participants are encouraged to make a donation and to share photos of themselves living up to the challenge by, well, we’ll let the website do the talking:

We challenge you to channel your inner GRUMPY and capture yourself, a group of friends, or a couple of ol’ shmucks JUMPING IN THE SNOW! When you’re done, it’s your turn to challenge someone else (anywhere in the world) to make the plunge! This includes sand angels, grass angels, bubble angels, snow angels, ice skating, ice fishing, or even Plunging! (summer attire encouraged).

The festival also normally includes bingo, a cribbage tournament – and, of course, showings of the movie; however, this year, participants are encouraged to view at home or via streaming.

Some things don’t change: The Pioneer Supper Club will host events including an ice bar, bonfire and s’mores station. Additionally, a local author, Laura Sulentich, will read from her children’s book, The Shortest Day, at the Wabasha Public Library. The book details the wonders of nature, even in a frozen landscape.

“This is our tradition,” says Glomski. “It all stems back to the movie, and it has kept going from there.”

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