BY TRAVIS GRIMLER
This year marks the 22nd annual Men & Boys Wild Game Potluck Banquet, an event that began as a church outreach program inspired by an elk hunt in Montana.
The potluck will be Friday, Feb. 22, at the Pequot Lakes Baptist Church’s Trailside Center. It is open to men and boys including, but not limited to, fathers and children, uncles and nephews, and mentors and mentees.
The banquet will feature guest speaker Den Pluimer, a retired teacher from the Willmar area who has been offering fishing guide services between Nisswa and Longville for 30 years.
Pluimer’s speech will likely focus on the four things that excite him: fins, feathers, faith and family, said Bill Gardner of Pine River, a founding member of the event.
Gardner and his brother-in-law, John Hurst, were turning in for the night on that elk hunt years ago when an idea struck Hurst.
“He said, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about this, and why don’t we do something like this in our own church group?’ So that’s kind of the beginning,” Gardner said. “So that next fall we had our first banquet and I think there were 30 guys there.”
Speakers at the event have included a range of individuals. Over time they have heard from WalleyeDan Eigen, various area pastors and a fishing guide who specializes in archery fishing.
“I guess the changes are the fact that we do what we do and try to make things better every year,” Gardner said. “Every year we try to improve or add something special.”
The event has grown to include prizes donated and purchased with donated funds, a hunting shack and a façade they can install on the outside of the bathroom door to make it look like an outhouse.
The event also hosts trophies from those who attend, displays by local taxidermists, table favors and of course, the food.
The event is a potluck, but there are also hors d’oeuvres donated by local meat markets and grocery stores. In the past, food has ranged from fish, venison, many varieties of bird and even a mountain lion from Montana.
“The lion was good,” Gardner said. “You get right down to it, it’s all good.”
All foods are clearly marked by flags, just in case participants do or do not want to try something specific.
The doors open at 5 p.m. at the Trailside Center in Pequot Lakes, so bring a dish if you are able.
Gardner explained that they host the potluck each year for “the father and son bonding, to introduce boys to fishing, hunting and God, and that’s the crux of it.”