Derby awards ceremony was the answer to a prayerBy Nelson Sigelman
The 65th Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby concluded with a dramatic awards ceremony. The common thread among the many boisterous well-wishers crowded into Nectar's was the fishing contest, but in fact it was a fishing contest that is about more than catching a fish.
Scott Duhaime knew that was true when he carried his cancer-stricken son Brendan up on stage to receive an award for the second biggest bluefish in the mini-junior division, and the crowd cheered as the little boy inwardly beamed from a frail body too tired to smile.
Roger Schaefer, a man who had lost everything he worked for but still retained the things that are important, won big when his key opened the lock of a brand new Eastern boat much to the delight of his 101-year-old grandfather, who celebrated like a man not past 70.
"So many things have changed from when I was a kid but the Derby is still the Derby," Roger told a cheering crowd.
Michael A. Paone of Newtonville arrived every weekend to fish the Derby. On the same trip, his 13-year-old son Giovanni caught a bass that put him on top of the junior division and dad landed the 37.60 pound striper that landed him a new Chevy Silverado pickup truck, courtesy of the Clay Family dealerships.
Gary Root, 68, of Colrain wore a bemused expression on his grizzled face when he stepped up on stage to receive a special award given to the non-resident senior who catches the heaviest shore bluefish.
"I didn't know I was going to get an award," he said with a smile. "It's only because I'm from off-Island and I'm old. I walk four miles a day to fish."
Charlie Smith of Edgartown, longtime Derby night weigh master, received a special award: a big hug from his daughter Heather Smith after the presentation of the first Martha's Vineyard Surfcaster's Sportsmanship Award.
"Sportsmanship shows how devoted you truly are to something and I can't think of anyone more dedicated to something than my Dad to the Derby and everything it stands for," she said in her nomination letter read from the podium (available at mvtimes.com).