By Greg Gelpi
Wrangling in a whale of a fish weighing a few ounces, 6-year-old Alexis Wallace pulled in the first fish in her life.
Wallace, her 3-year-old brother Leterran Wallace and her grandfather Harry Wallace were among more than 100 people who participated in the Fifth Annual Forest Park and Fort Gillem Fishing Rodeo Saturday. Casting her Barbie fishing pole into Fort Gillem's Stephens Lake, Alexis Wallace had little to say about her feat, although her smile gave her thoughts away. She buzzed around with the brim captured in the plastic package of her fishing pole.
"The secret is patience," her grandfather said. "That's something they don't have as you can see."
Pulling in the biggest fish in the youngest age group, 3-year old Bianca Camp, the daughter of U.S. Army Sgt. Major William Abner, shyly said she planned to continue pulling fish out of the small lake.
"She's been asking me all week (about the rodeo)," Abner said. "Daddy, I can't wait to go fishing."
Fishing was a little slow for Shane Nicholson, but he did manage to catch a golf ball-sized turtle, he said. The 11-year-old spent the morning with his 7-year-old sister Taylor and mother Wanda.
Accustomed to casting his rod and reel into his bathtub at home, DaVonte Price, 9, said he had fun despite not catching anything.
"I think it's fun trying something new," Price said. "A lot of (the fish) have been eating up the bait."
The fishing is just a means to bring family together, Forest Park Mayor Charles Hall said.
"We're hoping that through a little bit of time here we can build a better relationship between parents and youth," Hall said. "We look forward to having it every year."
The fishing rodeo, a partnership between the city of Forest Park and Ft. Gillem, provided an opportunity for the two to strengthen their partnership and commitment to each other.
Hall and U.S. Army Col. Angela Manos, the installation commander of Ft. Gillem and Ft. McPherson, signed a new yearlong partnership agreement before the fishing rodeo.
The fence around the base is only for protection, Manos said. It isn't meant to forge a barrier between the base and the community.
With about 98 percent of the soldiers at Ft. Gillem and Ft. McPherson living off base, she said the bases are definitely a part of the community.
"What I like about these events is the adults and children," Manos said. "Before you know it, they're spending more quality time."
The winners of the fishing rodeo were first place Camp, second place Alexis Wallace and third place Rhaynae Lloyd in the 6 and under division. Camp was also the youngest angler.
In the 7 and 8 division, winners were first place Nicholes Bolton, second place Randy Glascock and third place Michael Baldwin.
Winners in the 9 and 10 age division were first place Dante Broadnax, second place Benjamin Bolton and third place Jamahl Parker. Broadnax also reeled in the biggest fish, which weighed 11 ounces, and the highest total weight of fish at 44 ounces.
Winning the 11 to 13 division were D'Cora Baldwin in first place and Kevin McCoy in second place.