ENNIS, Mont, – Ennis’s 15th Annual Fly Fishing Festival kicked off on Saturday under new leadership.
After 14 years of running the festival, the Madison River Foundation opted out of bringing it back. Wanting to keep the event going, the Ennis Chamber of Commerce decided to take it on.
Chamber Executive Director Halley Perry said the new festival incorporated a new outdoor side.
“We are known as the fun festival for a lot of vendors, so it is just a gem for our community,” said Perry.
This was the first year non-profit Camp Bullwheel was a vendor in the festival. The non-profit’s goal is allowing the physically disabled to still be able to fish.
People who sign up for the program stay for a week at a home near Varney Bridge where they can hop onto a wheelchair-accessible boat and cast out into the Madison.
“There is always a challenge,” said Camp Bullwheel Volunteer Peter Pauwels. “So at first, we worked with disabilities that are easier to work with and we progressed to the point that now we have automated fishing systems for people who are paralyzed from the neck down, have no arm function at all.”
Camp Bullwheel has custom-made rods that allow almost anyone to fish. The organization even has a bluetooth controller that was made in Great Falls that allows paraplegics to control a computerized fishing pole by sipping and breathing through tubes.
Chris Clasby broke his neck in the 90’s, but that didn’t stop him from hunting and fishing. He has fished several times on the camp’s boat.
“Finding a way to do something when you are still an active participant in pursuit of a mutual goal with your companion is a huge thing. So it is part of your identity and it allows a person to be who he or she really is,” said Clasby.
Camp Bullwheel was completely booked over this past summer. The company is now asking for donations to expand the facilities to make this opportunity available to as many people as possible.
If you would like to donate to the foundation, you can at Camp Bullwheel’s website.