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Fishing For Freedom Tournament Canceled Due to Government Shutdown


A popular veterans event has been canceled due to the government shutdown.

The annual Fishing for Freedom Tournament will have to hold off until next year. More than a thousand people were expected to attend this weekend, and this includes around 400 veterans and soldiers who signed up to participate in the tournament.

The logistics for travel and hotels for a group that size left the tournaments board of directors no choice but to cancel, even if there's a last minute settlement in Congress later this week.

Director Cliff Brown sits on the board of directors and he and the board members have been planning the event for eight months.

"It's an amazing event and the atmosphere is just amazing," Brown said. 

The event is held every year in October and brings veterans and soldiers from across the country to Lake Belton. Brown and the board had to make a tough decision on Tuesday.

"It's frustrating to me to know that I got to tell these guys, all the volunteers, all the sponsors, soldiers, boaters that due to the government shutdown and the lakes closing by the Ft. Worth Corps of Engineers, we are going to have to cancel this event," said Brown. "We got hundreds, literally hundreds of hotel reservations that need to be canceled."

Within the last few weeks, Brown and the board have been in contact with the Corps of Engineers to see if they can open a few gates for the event. However, that wasn't possible until the shutdown ends.

"I understand that there's bigger fish to fry, but it hurts when you don't understand that it doesn't make sense, you know there's a time when you say what does right look like, but closing boat ramps that are unmanned is not what right looks like," Brown said.

U.S. Army Purple Heart Recipient Sgt. James Blake and his fellow soldiers look forward to the event every year.

"I feel disappointed that this is happening," Blake said. " Not just with the event, but the government itself right now."

The winner of the tournament would have received a brand new boat; a dream come true for a die hard fisherman. This year, they'll have to put it off.

"The thought that it's not going to happen, which we just found out, is just heartbreaking," Blake said.

There was talk about having the event another weekend, but because the Killeen Convention Center is used for part of the tournament, that wasn't a possible since it's booked until next year. 

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