Not only did last weekend’s last year’s installment of DerbyFest record the two largest fish ever caught in the derby’s history, the crowds viewing and taking part in the derby were the biggest on record as well.

“We broke a record for registrations, at just under 2,300 individuals and families,” said event organizer Tom Noonan after last year’s event was in the books. “Catch-wise, there were fewer fish caught this year, but they were bigger fish. And, as far as spectators go, there were at least 10,000 on the ice this year. At least.”

Noonan credits the “tireless work” of hundreds of volunteers from the area for the event’s success this year. Rotarians, Chamber of Commerce members and Windham Boy Scouts joined together with Windham Interact Club students and area snowmobile clubs in directing traffic, manning food vendor stations and weighing fish all weekend long.

“People always give the praise to leaders but we couldn’t put this on without the dedication of the volunteers,” Noonan said. “Camp Sunshine and Maine Children’s Cancer Program, the main beneficiaries of the derby, are about a $100,000 richer because of the work of these dedicated people. I can’t say enough about them.”

Noonan also credits the near-perfect weather, which was in the high 20s with little wind on Saturday when most of the popular spectator events were held. Sunday was sunny but very windy, especially in the morning.

“Saturday as unbelievable. If a doctor was going to write me a prescription for weather, it would have been what we had Saturday,” Noonan said.

There were no known injuries during this year’s derby, and except for some speeding snowmobilers near activities in Raymond Beach, traffic and pedestrians moved along quickly all weekend long.

Sponsorship went from 52 area businesses last year to nearly 75 for this year, Noonan said. Local businesses provided more than $30,000 worth of prizes for derby entrants ranging from the top prize of a Trophy 17-foot fishing boat donated by Panther Run Marina to gift certificates to Kittery Trading Post.

“We are the richest derby in the state because we have the best sponsors,” Noonan said.

Last year’s DerbyFest winners

Steve Emerson, 36, of Addison, Maine won a new boat with the largest fish ever caught at the derby, a 22.34-pound, 38.5-inch togue.

“I’m a lobster fisherman so I have boats but they’re work boats, so it’ll be real nice to have a nice boat to play with,” Emerson said after winning at the culminating awards ceremony traditionally held Sunday night at Camp Sunshine.

Emerson said he’s been ice fishing for 20 years and that getting the monster togue through the hole was a challenge. He said he caught the fish in 15-20 feet of water off the southern tip of Frye Island.

“It as like pulling up a dead log,” Emerson said.

Emerson was fishing with his girlfriend Amanda and his brother’s family. Brother Chris Dorr, a taxidermist, said he would stuff the prize-winning fish.

Second place went to Roger Reed, a South Portland lobster dealer who caught a 21.6-pound togue. Reed won an ice shack from Sebago Dock Company.

Albion resident Peter Conley took home third place last year with a 16-pounder. Conley, also a lobsterman, earned a gift certificate worth $500 from Kittery Trading Post.

In addition to the top three prizes, the derby traditionally offers door prizes and fish pool prizes. Winners in those categories last year included John Sargent of Standish who won a Polaris ATV; Davis Olson of South Portland who won a Fisher plow package, Nathaniel Sayward of Raymond who won a SkiDoo Tundra snowmobile, and Paige Zipperer of Standish who won $1,000 cash.

Aubuchon Hardware Hardwater Challenge

If traffic count was any indication, last year’s Friday night ice car race at Point Sebago was a total success. Noonan said 200 cars were turned away because of a lack of parking at the resort. A crowd of over a 1,000 people watched as cars fitted with spikes and studs raced around a one-third-mile oval on the frozen lagoon at Point Sebago.

In the New Meadows Ice Racing Association-sanctioned studded tire race, Vern Warren of Brunswick came in first place winning $500. Sandy Fotter of Oakland came in second to win $250, and third-place Martin Krauter of Raymond won $125. Derek Kneeland of Windham won fourth place and $125.

Rob Koenig of Brunswick won the first place award, $500, in the spiked tires division. Second-placed Brian Johnson of Woolwich won $250. Third-placed Lyman McKease of Windham won $125. Fourth-placed Roland LeBloud of New Gloucester won $65. And Wayne Ambrose of Brunswick won $65 in fifth place.

Air Show, Wingwalker

One of the biggest draws of the weekend, the second annual air show drew thousands of spectators watched from Jordan Bay as aerobatic biplanes, a wingwalker, and a Russian jet fighter took to the skies Saturday morning.

After a reading of a proclamation by local legislators as the official opening of the derby, three parachutists from the 1st 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment out of Fort Benning, Georgia descended from the skies exactly at 11 a.m. to start the air show. After landing, Corporals Dave Craney and Charles Dunaway and Master Sergeant Dale Wagner, dressed in cold weather gear were shivering packing up their parachutes surrounded by spectators.

“It was a blast. It was such an awesome view,” Dunaway said of last year’s floating descent. “You could see the whole area coming in. But it was really cold, my fingers are numb.”

Crowds were dazzled by the skinny Canadian woman who braved the cold, possibly setting a Guinness record for the first wing walk in winter. Carol Pilon of Masham, Quebec is a private freelance wingwalker who went up in a two-seat biplane. She had five layers of clothing underneath a red Canadian flag uni-tard “with no exposed skin at all,” according to her pilot Kirk Wicker.

“The first time I saw a wingwalker, I fell immediately in love with it,” the petite Pilon said. “I’m trying to make it into a full-time career. Right now it’s a part-time thing although this year I think we have seven events confirmed and possibly up to 13. But this was definitely the coldest.”

Pilon is again scheduled to wingwalk again this year.

Cross Country Ski Race

On a cold and very windy Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., eight skiers toed their ski tips to the starting line in the derby’s first annual cross country ski race sponsored by Kittery Trading Post. Skiers started with a tailwind on the one-mile course, but the ease of the tailwind turned into a wicked headwind upon returning to the start line on the out-and-back course. Being in the trees this year at Point Sebago’s course should offer a little less problems associated with wind, should wind blow up as it did last year.

Last year’s winner, Patrick Ryan, a sophomore at Yarmouth High School and member of the school’s ski team, said at the finish line, “I’d rather go uphill than into a wind like that was today.”

His fellow competitors felt the same.

“It as windy,” said second-placed Steve Mercer of Naples, “It was great going out, but horrible coming back.”

The top three finishers of the 5K race were Ryan in 18:59; Mercer in 23:39; and Kevin Rallis in 33:42.

Since there were only eight contestants, Kittery Trading Post split the $1,000 prize purse among the skiers.

“That was unbelievable,” said Matt Cyr, last year’s race organizer and DARE Officer for the Windham Police Department. “They came through with what they promised. What an enormous sponsorship and what a great way to help out with a lifelong sport in this state.”

Polar Ice Dip

About 1,000 spectators crowded around a rectangular hole in Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach at 2 p.m. on Saturday to watch about 175 brave souls take an icy plunge into about four feet of 37-degree water.

Proceeds from the event, mostly raised by participants who received pledges from sponsors, raised over $50,000 for Maine Children’s Cancer Program. Shaw’s Supermarkets from all over Maine and New Hampshire comprised the majority of jumpers last year.

Ice Fisherman of the Year Contest

South Portland resident Derek Nesbit’s two-year reign as Ice Fisherman of the Year was ended last year by the strong arms and sure footedness of Maine Game Warden Jeremy Judd.

Judd, whose patrol area includes Gray and New Gloucester, was serving in his official capacity at the derby when he decided to participate. Judd got a quick lead in the 100-yard run and then drilled through the foot of ice faster than his competitors, returned to the starting line and drilled another hole. Nesbit finished in a close second and was disappointed with the loss.

“I guess he was just bigger, stronger and faster. I can barely breathe right now,” Nesbit said.

The third of three to finish last year was Raymond’s Brad Woodbrey. Woodbrey’s ice auger was giving him a hard time and jokingly he protested the results saying, “I had faulty equipment, it had to be the equipment.”

Economic impact

Carroll Cutting, owner of Jordan’s Store in East Sebago, typified the average storeowner in the region in reporting that he “did double” in sales over the derby weekend last year. Restaurants, motels and gas stations around the area reported increased profits as well.

“It as like a summer weekend,” said T.J. Davis, owner of T.J’s Sandwich Shop in Sebago Lake Village. “On Saturday, we doubled our normal sales, and on Sunday I’d say we saw a 40 percent increase. It was fantastic.”

Roger Knights of Knights Bait Shop on Brown Road in Raymond, said he sold double the amount of bait he usually does.

We sold a lot of suckers and shiners. We didn’t do too bad. It was pretty good,” Knights said.

Sunset Variety at the corner of Route 121 and 302 reported the weekend was similar to a summertime weekend. Tuan Nguyen, a clerk at the gas station, said the station ran out of gas because of such demand from both snowmobilers and motorists.

“It was borderline ridiculous how many snowmobiles filled up here,” Nguyen said. “It was great though. The weather was so good on Saturday that it really attracted loads of people.”

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