By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – With the early morning sun sparkling off of the Oconaluftee River like a million diamonds, over 2,000 people gathered to share in family fun, create memories, and fish. The 22nd Annual Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby was hosted by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) on Saturday, Aug. 5 on the Oconaluftee River.
“Twenty-two years…that’s what it takes,” said Sabrina Arch, EBCI secretary of commerce. “You want the volume here. You want to get people here. It takes time. I’m glad that we’ve got this huge turnout. I think not having the road (US441) closed down is actually drawing more people because they’re able to come through. They’re able to see everything going on.”
Arch said the event sells itself. “There’s not a lot of marketing for this because people know, where it’s already been in existence for so long. They know to expect it. They know it’s here. And they always flock to it. The kids love that they get a fishing pole. They love that they get their little bags, the shirts. They get so excited just to get out there and fish and reel something in. This is the first experience for a lot of people that are coming to the community. And it’s a good experience for the community members because, again, it gives them the opportunity to fish, to get out there to see what it’s really about, even though they may have never fished before. It’s always an exciting time.”
Hilda Eubanks, of Sylva, was at the event with her husband, Jeff, and grandchildren Emmi and Kayden Eubanks. She noted, “It is our first time at the tournament. They’ve got everything organized very well.”
She said everyone was having fun and supporting each other. “What’s really cool is that we just got here, and there were people around us – they all pitched in, and everybody was helping them (grandchildren) fish.”
Jeff Eubanks added, “Everybody helped. Once their kids caught their limit, they were helping everybody else catch theirs.”
Kayden Eubanks, age 8, said he enjoyed the fishing which can be challenging. “I was trying to catch the goldie. They’re hard because they look straight at the bait and then run.”
Jim Driver, an EBCI tribal member, was at the event with his daughter and 8-year-old grandson, Carter Norris. “I like the family vibe it gives off and, of course, spending time with him. I don’t get to spend time with him much. I work in the evenings, so I hardly ever get to see him, especially once he gets out of school.”
Carter had caught several fish already at the time of the interview. “I like how many fish you can see.”
And, there were a lot of fish in the Oconaluftee that morning. According to information from the Cherokee Fish Hatchery, around 3,200 fish were stocked in the river for the event.
Along with the plethora of fish and people fishing, an event of this magnitude requires a lot of workers.
Secretary Arch commented, “We’ve got the Welcome Center, we’ve got all of Commerce here. So, it really helps. We all pull together, and everybody knows what they’ve got to do. We’ve got volunteers throughout the community…the Job Corps, Mother Town, EBCI Fisheries & Wildlife, and several others have really come in and helped us. All the programs. Facility Management you’ll see here…Tribal EMS, the Police Department – we’ve got to do a shoutout to them because of all that they’ve done for us, especially with the road closures. So, they’re making sure that they’re watching the roads for us. That’s been very helpful, having all the support of the community for this event.”
The EBCI Dept. of Commerce provided the following list of sponsors: Owle Construction, Great Smokies Inn, Smart Electric, EW2, Cherokee Enterprises, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Haynes Electric, 4D Engineers, TABCC (Tribal Alcohol Beverage Control Commission), Johnson Architect, JMT (Johnson, Mirmiran, and Thompson), Powerscreen, Vannoy, McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, Pautzkie Bait, Tribal Option, Museum of the Cherokee Indians, Qualla Co-Op, Deer Clan Productions, and EBCI Fisheries & Wildlife.