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Walleye Festival returns to Port Clinton for 41st year

Two years of tribulations left the event that celebrates the state fish of Ohio in jeopardy, but now it's back and better than ever.

PORT CLINTON, Ohio — The sounds of summer and the smells of fair food have returned Port Clinton. It's Walleye Festival time.

"It's the start to our summer here in Port Clinton", Nicole Kochensperger with Main Street Port Clinton says.

This year started with a little rain, but the forecast is great for the weekend. For the last two years, things were not good for this fourth-largest festival in Ohio. In 2020, there was COVID; 2021, "a historic flooding event."

Water was everywhere, but this year, it's a flood of people. That's a great thing for Steve Hammer of Hammertime Custom Lures.

"Looks like it's going to be beautiful," he told us, "and that should be good for all the vendors here and the city of Port Clinton."

Vesa Limoni, of Kosovo, traveled the farthest to be at the festival. When she returns to Europe, she'll take a little slice of Americana with her.

"It's so much like the movies that we see," she said. "There are, like, some stores, there are a lot of people, some rides, places to eat. It's great."

In addition to carnival rides, there is food--lots of options from bourbon chicken, tacos, fresh cut fries, and even pierogis. But the star of this show gets released to the grease: fresh fried walleye sandwiches.

Two years is a long time to wait for this. Michael Breay, "The Pope" of The Church of Perch, is happy to be here.

"I like perch. Fried perch, that's all I do," Breay explained. "Walleye is so versatile. You can fry it, you can bake it." 

But you have to catch it first!

There's a collective good feeling here at the Walleye Festival, something that has been bottled up in this community for two years.

"I think people are ready to get back to whatever kind of normal they were living before COVID," Kochensperger said, "and I think this is a great way to do it."

All thanks to the golden fish with the white spot on its tail.

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