The 24 contestants raised more than $3,120 in donations, while the annual Catfish Fry event itself was expected to have generated more than $13,000 for the environmental watchdog group.
CRBI Board President Nina Lovel raised the most money in the Catfish Kissin’ contest, contributing $429.92.
“He was really sweet, a really nice fish,” Lovel said. “He didn’t seem to mind being kissed, but I’m glad he didn’t kiss back!”
Owen Kinney, a teacher at Darlington School, was second with $356, and Gary Jones II, a teacher at East Central Elementary School, was third with $347.23. Both of the runners-up got a chance to kiss the catfish, along with Assistant District Attorney Steve Cox, who was the Bottom Feeder among the fundraisers.
“We had a great time. I believe we’ve got a great new fundraiser for CRBI,” Executive Director Joe Cook said.
Lovel said funds generated by the event would continue advancing the mission of the organization, which is to educate people about the rivers and do advocacy at the state level.
Cook said he suspects that a large chunk of the funds will be earmarked to help finance a new Etowah River ramp near the U.S. 411 bridge just into Bartow County. He said construction of the ramp would begin in the near future.
“We have almost enough money to do that,” Cook said. “We might need some more to put the finishing touches on it, so we’ll be working on that, building the parking area and boat ramp.”
Looking toward the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly, Cook said one of the big environmental issues will be an effort to make sure money from the Trust Fund is used as it is intended.
“Whenever you take stuff to the dump, you pay a fee that goes into the Trust Fund that is supposed to be used to clean up hazardous waste sites,” Cook said. “The General Assembly can use that fund, those fees, for whatever they want. Fees going into the Trust Fund, which amount to millions of dollars each year, are being redirected to other parts of the state budget, so fixing that problem, making sure that money that we pay to clean up hazardous waste sites actually goes to that program rather than being siphoned off for other things.”