2005-05-04 / Front Page

Naubinway Smelters Kick Off Spring

By Stephen Underwood

Scott Little (right) and Vanessa Ortman were named the 2005 Smelt Fest King and Queen. The event was hosted by Johnny Beato (center) at his restaurant, Johnny B’s Italian Garden.Scott Little (right) and Vanessa Ortman were named the 2005 Smelt Fest King and Queen. The event was hosted by Johnny Beato (center) at his restaurant, Johnny B’s Italian Garden.

It didn’t matter much if there were no smelt in the Black River, revelers at the 13th Annual Smelt Fest in Naubinway last Saturday, April 30, had plenty of fun. An estimated 80 to 100 people participated in some or all of the festivities, which started in the morning with the raising of the “Smelt Capital of the U.P.” flag and concluded with the crowning of the Smelt Fest King and Queen.

This year’s king and queen were Scott Little of White Lake, near Novi, and Vanessa Ortman of Mt. Pleasant. Mr. Little is a part-time resident of the area and Ms. Ortman grew up in Rexton.

“Everyone had a good time and a lot of fun,” said organizer Dorothy Perkins. “The idea is just a kick off into spring.”

All of the day’s activities took place at Johnny B’s Italian Garden, five miles east of Naubinway. After the flag raising, a two-hour auction took place with proceeds benefiting the Naubinway-Engadine Merchants Association.

Johnny Beato (Johnny B.) began frying and serving the smelt about mid-afternoon. By early evening, the Smelters Poker Rally was held, with local resident Dave Frazier drawing the winning hand (two pair) and taking home $100. The 50/50 drawing winner was Crawford Perkins of Curtis, followed by the king and queen ceremony. Then the band “Rehab Monday” entertained with classic rock and roll.

Mr. Beato said there had been a modest smelt run on some nearby streams during the warmer weather of early April, but he is hoping for something better when the weather warms again. He got the smelt for the fry from Wisconsin.

Mr. Frazier, however, said it had been several years since any smelt have run on the Black River in Naubinway.

“When the state started planting trout and salmon in the 1980s, they were depleted as a food source,” he said. “The cormorants got them, too.”

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