March 06, 2023
By Ross Purnell
More than 550 people packed the 75,0000 square foot Tatersall Distillery and Event Center in River Falls, Wisconsin, to see the 10th showing of the River Falls Fly Fishing Film Festival (RF4) and to see Gary Horvath receive the Fly Fisherman Conservationist of the Year Award. Gary Horvath enjoyed rousing cheering and applause from an inspired and energetic crowd when he received a $10,000 check from Simms Fishing Products in recognition of and in support of ongoing dam removal efforts on western Wisconsin’s Kinnickinnic River. Thanks to three decades of effort from Horvath and the entire Kiap-TU-Wish Trout Unlimited Chapter, both the dams on the Kinni have been decommissioned, the gates are open, the reservoirs dewatered, and funds are being raised for the final removal of the dam structures.
“We have partnered with Fly Fisherman on the Conservationist of the Year award for many years. It always feels great to celebrate the achievements of individuals such as Gary Horvath,” says John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products. “But it’s also fundamentally essential to amplify their successes in a way that illustrates the fact that positive steps forward in the conservation landscape can happen, and they are happening. It’s our hope that highlighting these individuals and more importantly, their achievements will serve as an inspiration to others to engage, get involved, and take action.”
Kiap-TU-Wish president Greg Olson said the $10,000 award from Simms will be used by the Kiap-TU-Wish chapter to help fund the dam removal—a total of $175,000 needs to be raised to pay for an Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study.
“We’re grateful to Simms and to Fly Fisherman for recognizing Gary as the Conservationist of the Year," Olson said. "It was rewarding to have his efforts over the past 30 years recognized, but more important it will raise awareness to our continuing efforts to raise money for the feasibility study. The R4F event was the perfect place to celebrate our successes and bring our community together. It was the perfect venue and a packed house!”
RF4 organizer Chris Bye said the March 3 event at the distillery raised an additional $30,000 that will be split between local nonprofits the Kinni River Land Trust (kinniriver.org) and the Rhino’s foundation (rhinosfoundation.org).
“We are in the unique position of having all our energies focused on a specific watershed, and the R4F event is a true team effort by multiple people who share the same passion,” said Bye. “Gary’s well-deserved award validated the efforts of all the groups (Kiap-TU-Wish, KRLT, KCC) dedicated to the “Kinni”, and was the highlight of the 10-year existence of the R4F event.”