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No longer reeling: Port Clinton's Walleye Festival ready to bob up after 2 tough years

Walleye Festival
Posted at 6:15 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 19:47:03-04

PORT CLINTON, Ohio — Port Clinton's Walleye Festival has been reeling in people from all over the state for the decades its hosted the weekend event. The event is one of the largest festivals in Ohio and after two tough years, organizers, vendors and festival-goers are hoping that things bob up in 2022.

At Jamaican Grill, a staple food stand at the Walleye Festival for years, business is booming.

“This is our umpteenth year of doing the Walleye festival, this is one of our favorites," the store said.

With a line down the pavement before rides or activities had even begun, Jamaican Kitchen was happy to see some familiar faces and new ones as well after a difficult two years, with COVID-19 canceling the festival in 2020 and severe floods interrupting the 2021 festivities.

"Last year was really awful. This whole thing was covered. We couldn’t get back in for like two days from the flood. It was crazy. Craziness," the restaurant said. "And then last year before that of course with the COVID stuff, it’s been a rough go but we’ve been very, very blessed because everybody loves this bourbon chicken."

Chicken at a walleye festival may seem a strange craze, but it's just one of the many options for food that festival-goers will get to enjoy while also getting some good weather to boot.

“We have close to 100 vendors in the park, everything from food to merchandise to informational activities," said Nicole Kochensparger, Program Manager at Main Street Port Clinton. “So pretty much anything you could think of to eat and anything you could think of to buy is here in the park right now."

Kochensparger has spent the past year planning for the Walleye Festival and after two years of unfortunate circumstances, she's ready for a full-blown event this Memorial Day Weekend.

“I cried during our opening ceremonies yesterday — most people don't understand, they just think its a festival that popped up in the city of Port Clinton and most people don’t understand it takes a year to plan this event with a small group of people and an even smaller group of people to put it all together," Kochensparger said. "The fact that we have great weather predicted for this weekend and that everybody that is here to support our festival is going to have a tremendous weekend too just means the world to me."

Port Clinton's Walleye Festival is held at Waterworks Park on the shores of Lake Erie and features free live concerts, a kids fishing derby, a parade, educational programs, carnival rides and more than 130 vendors from around the country—including Jamaican Grill, who can't wait to see the turnout this year.

"So excited for everybody to come everybody's ready they can’t wait," the restaurant said. "They’re saying it’s going to be a record year this year so that’s pretty awesome.

Waterworks Park is located at 1868 E. Perry St. The festival runs May 27-30, until 11 p.m. Friday, on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To learn more, click here.

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