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Gone Fishing

Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley

Idaho’s Largest (Canned) Trout Comes to Ketchum

The Hunger Coalition celebrates 10 years

Jul 8, 2013 - 05:45 PM
Idaho’s Largest (Canned) Trout Comes to Ketchum

Ginger Spence helps with can-struction.

There’s an old saying that goes: Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. But if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.

While the intentions behind this saying are pretty solid, it’s outdated and, quite frankly, downright flawed. It doesn’t take into account catch-and-release regulations, the challenges of trying to stay healthy eating nothing but fish or the cost of good fishing tackle nowadays.

It also doesn’t seem to notice that a hungry man doesn’t care about the finer points of casting a Thomas Buoyant or a Woolly Bugger. He just wants something to eat. 

For 10 years now, when a person, or family, in Blaine County has been hungry—which happens much more than you’d ever think possible in our resort community—The Hunger Coalition (THC) has been there to feed them and to help them get through some tough times.

Over the last decade, what originally began as a small group of folks gathering food to help supplement the efforts of local social service agencies has grown into one of the Wood River Valley’s most well-respected non-profits. One that now employs a half-dozen locals, is supported by nearly 150 volunteers and distributes thousands of pounds of food to local people in need each month.

Steve Thornton cuts out another rib for the canned trout.To celebrate their 10th anniversary, THC is holding an arts event and food drive in Ketchum Town Square on Thursday night, July 11th. The birthday party will include a concert by Slow Children Playing (SCP's Facebook page), raffle prizes, a “special surprise” and the unveiling of the largest “trout” ever landed in Idaho!

The centerpiece of the celebration is a 10-foot tall trout sculpture made out of canned food. As to just how many cans, it’s anybody’s guess—literally. The Hunger Coalition will be holding a free raffle for folks to take a guess, so that a lucky bidder will win a gift certificate to The Toy Store, as well as endless bragging rights about their numerical skills/guessing abilities. (Go to their Facebook page to enter a guess online.)

Building a canned fish that large has been no easy task though. It has taken nearly 40 hours of volunteer time from each of the local construction workers turned sculptors: Matt Spence, Paul Bernstein and Steve Thornton. 

Matt and Steve build the sculpture one can at a time.“We knew it was going to be a challenge. There’s a lot that goes into it; from the engineering, to the weight and the color. Getting the color right is key,” explained Matt, who works for Lee Gilman and is an avid fly fisherman. “But it’s been fun. It’s been a pretty cool challenge.”

Building a trout as large as a minivan out of cans filled with food—that will be used to feed hungry locals after the event—has certainly been a unique challenge for the team, who affectionately call the project “can-struction.”

“We always knew it was going to be complex,” Steve said. “We just didn’t want to admit it.”

As the sculpture grew, so did the challenge of making it. Halfway through, the canned trout got so big they needed to move its construction from a house in Hailey to a garage bay in Bellevue. “It was sort of like the movie ‘Jaws,’” Matt joked when they realized just how big the fish actually was. “We needed to get a bigger boat.”

A bigger boat, so to speak, is exactly what has been needed to help keep many children, families and elderly residents of the Wood River Valley afloat during hard and hungry times. And thanks to the tireless work of The Hunger Coalition’s staff, board volunteers and supporters, the life raft for hungry local folks keeps getting bigger and keeps saving more people.

So, head on over to Ketchum Town Square on Thursday to help them celebrate, or make a donation. They will be selling raffle tickets for fun prizes from Boca and Silver Creek Outfitters, or you can donate some much needed food (canned meats, rice, boxed meals are best. There will be a display of a variety of needed items). Or you could just stop by to give them a big thanks for all the good work they do to help the quiet, easily overlooked part of our community that is struggling to get a good meal. People like you and me, our neighbors, friends, children or grandparents.

“Come see the fish, find out what we do and help us raise some money or food for those in need,” said Jeanne Liston, THC’s executive director.

The staff and volunteers of The Hunger Coalition celebrate last year's Harvest of Hope Festival.

Local sponsors of this remarkable event include: Geri and John Herbert, the City of Ketchum Arts Commission, Sun Valley Gallery Association, Atkinsons’ Markets, Pure Body Pilates, Dirty Feet Dance Company, Silver Creek Outfitters, Boca, The Toy Store and Sun Valley Magazine.

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About This Blog

Whether he’s being out-fished by his trash talking mother-in-law, guiding one of his young sons through the perils of manhood or finding inspiration from the people of the Wood River Valley, Mike McKenna’s award-winning writing is always sure to entertain. Order a copy of Mike's highly-acclaimed book, "Angling Around Sun Valley: A year-round fly fishing guide to South Central Idaho" from Silver Creek Outfitters.

Gone Fishing's awards include: "Best Blog" 2010 & 2011 by the Idaho Press Club, "Best Web-only Article" of 2011 by the Outdoor Writers Association of California and "Best Fishing" & "Best Humor" blogs of 2012 by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.


"Angling Around Sun Valley" was selected as the "Best Book" of 2013 by Northwest Outdoor Writers Association!

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