Cayuga County officials hope two competitive fishing events, including one featuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will not only provide a boost to the local tourism industry, but allow the county to showcase some of its greatest assets.
A Bassmaster Elite Series tournament will be held from Aug. 21 through Aug. 24 on Cayuga Lake. Professional anglers participating in the competition will launch from Union Springs, the host of the four-day event.
While the pros are aiming for the biggest catch on Cayuga Lake, Cuomo's "Governor's Challenge" will be held on Owasco Lake.
Cuomo announced Wednesday during his annual State of the State address that this year's Governor's Challenge will be coming to Cayuga County. The challenge will be held on Aug. 23. The governor and other participants will engage in a friendly contest with the goal of promoting local tourism.
This isn't the first time New York has hosted a Bassmaster Elite Series event. And it isn't the first time Cuomo has held a governor's challenge aimed at promoting tourism. When the events were held in other parts of the state in 2013, they had a major impact.
Last summer, a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament was held in Waddington, a small village located along the St. Lawrence River in St. Lawrence County. According to an economic impact study conducted by students at Clarkson University, more than 34,100 people attended the four-day event. Visitors spent between $1.03 million and $3.38 million during the tournament, the study found.
The tournament was a major attraction, but the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce also organized a festival to entertain visitors during the competition's four-day run and showcase some of the area's products.
Jo Ann Roberts, who serves as events and promotions manager for the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, was the coordinator for the festival. She said there were about 100 vendors at the festival, including artisans, crafters, food vendors and wineries. The festival also featured musical performers, including country music acts Jason Michael Carroll, Bucky Covington and a popular group from central New York, Chris Taylor and the Custom Taylor Band.
Between the festival and the fishing tournament, Roberts said the events had a great economic impact on the village and St. Lawrence County.
"It was a huge boost to this area," she said. "I'm glad that it's coming back to New York."
While the fishing tournament was a huge economic driver, the governor's challenge is more of a promotional event. Last year's challenge was a whitewater rafting race on Indian River in the Adirondacks. Cuomo was joined by then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other local and state officials.
Kristy Kennedy, vice president of marketing for the North Country Chamber of Commerce, said the event showed off an attraction some residents and people outside of New York may not know about and gave the area a chance to promote other industries, including agriculture.
"Last year's event was amazingly done," she said. "It really brought awareness to how much the Adirondack Park has to offer. Overall, it was a great event and it really helped shine some light on different parts of New York. I think it's going to have the same effect this year."
With this year's governor's challenge coming to Owasco Lake and the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Cayuga Lake, local officials see a great opportunity to promote the area's tourism sector.
Andrew Fish, who heads the Cayuga Economic Development Agency and the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, said the two events will not only help the local economy, but will also help raise awareness about the assets located within the county's borders.
"Tourism is our fastest growing industry. Having the governor here for (the governor's challenge) is going to be great for us. He's going to be bringing a lot of interest and a lot of press," he said. "There's going to be a lot of coverage and we're going to get a lot of exposure.
"At the same time, the actual (Bassmaster Elite Series) tournament is going to be happening over on Cayuga Lake, which is going to be huge. They are going to bring in hundreds of people who are going to be staying here, fishing here, eating here, shopping here. So, it's going to be a really big boon on our local economy. It's going to be great and we're excited and enthusiastic that the governor is recognizing the gem that we have in Owasco Lake and the pavilion there. I think that will help spur business activity there as well."
The governor's challenge is one piece of Cuomo's push to boost tourism in New York. Last year, he announced plans to use $60 million in state funding to promote the tourism industry, including advertising campaigns to draw more visitors to upstate New York.
In his State of the State address Wednesday, Cuomo announced more plans to boost tourism in New York, including the release of an I Love NY smartphone app that provides information on dining, lodging and recreation options throughout the state.
But Cuomo, an avid fisherman, dedicated slightly more time in his presentation to announce the governor's challenge is coming to Owasco Lake this summer. He also invited state legislative leaders and members of the public to join him for the event.
"I once again hope that (Senate co-leader) Dean Skelos and (Assembly Speaker) Sheldon Silver and (Senate co-leader) Jeff Klein are there for the competition," Cuomo said Wednesday. "It will be all in good sport. But I hope they are there and you're all invited. We'll have some fun and we'll promote some tourism. I'll see you there."