EAST GRAND FORKS — Families and people of all ages flocked to East Grand Forks this weekend for the 34th annual Cats Incredible Catfish Tournament, which also featured its second DockDogs competition after its first appearance last year.
Participants basked in the sun and watched and participated in competitions. The Catfish Tournament has been set for Saturday and Sunday with the DockDogs competition starting Friday night and continuing through Sunday. A host of vendors were also on hand selling hot dogs, burgers, beer and more to keep people entertained and well fed throughout the weekend’s event.
Kathy Hawkins hadn’t been to Cats Incredible in years, but wanted to take her young granddaughter, who loves “fish and doggies,” to the event on Saturday.
Hawkins said they were able to stay cool during the event by sitting on the metal benches under the large green and white striped tent where anglers weighed the catfish they caught.
The majority of attendees filled grandstands near the Red River to watch the dogs battle it out for the longest jump in a nearly 40-foot-long pool. Competitors of all ages brought their dogs to the DockDogs Tournament, which is an Ohio-based competition featuring Big Air, Extreme Vertical, and Speed Retrieve events. It started in 2000 and bills itself as “the fastest growing 4-legged sport”.
The dog trainers were made up of men, women, and even children, who brought their dogs one by one to jump off a makeshift dock into the grass just east of the banks of the Red River. They walked onto a grass stage that served as a runway for jumping into the pool after a chew toy, rope or other object of interest.
One of DockDogs youngest trainers was Carissa Wadena, who brought her one-year-old Arkham Belgian Malinois, named Arkham Asylum from the Batman comic book series, to compete. They traveled from Mahnomen, Minnesota to compete in the event for the first time in Grand Forks. They competed in Fargo last year when Wadena started coaching Arkham.
A more experienced competitor, Downtown Henry rivals a Superman cape his owners bought on Amazon, and his trainer Susan Hoffman wears a matching Superman logo t-shirt. This is a four-year-old Goldendoodle named after where he and his trainer live – downtown Sioux Falls.
Downtown Henry, who has been preparing for competition since he was a year old, goes to about four or five different DockDogs events each summer with other dogs from Sioux Falls who all attend the events. They staked out their own corner of the event space just behind the DockDogs stage with tents and signs for each of the other Sioux Falls dogs competing in the event. Downtown Henry’s banner features a photo of him jumping after a balloon in his usual Superman attire.
Hoffman talked about what happens in the build-up to events.
“The most important thing is that the dog must have a very strong toy drive,” Hoffman said. “They need to be motivated to fetch the toy to jump into the water. And then after that, it’s just about building your relationship with your dog and having lots of fun.
Hoffman emphasized the “fun” aspect of it all. While the competition is great, if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right – and Downtown Henry has a lot of fun jumping in the water after his favorite toy.
“He loves his orange ball,” Hoffman said. “He lives for that orange ball.”