Story by Jon Dinan
ROSCOE The main dining room of the Rockland House in Roscoe was packed Saturday night as the Sullivan County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs held its 39th Annual Dinner Banquet.
Federation President Jack Danchak served as master of ceremonies for the event. He announced honorary guests, sweepstakes and raffle winners, presented President’s Awards and announced Harry Walker III of Wurtsboro as the Federation’s 2011 Sportsman of the Year.
In bestowing Walker with the Federation’s highest honor, Danchak spoke about his accomplishments as a sportsman. In addition to being a Federation of Sportsmen club member, Walker serves the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Sullivan County Conservation Club, and he is the seven-year president of Sullivan County Archers.
Walker graciously accepted the Sportsman of the Year plaque from Danchak as well as Certificates of Merit from New York State Senator John J. Bonacic, New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson.
“This is a total surprise,” said Walker. “I didn’t think I’d fit the bill, but this is an outstanding award and I am very thankful.”
Before presenting the award to Walker, Danchak named all the past recipients of the Sportsman of the Year award who were present.
The Federation also recognized several individuals for their various contributions with President’s Awards. Those individuals were: Bill Gaudette, Aaron Finely, Ed Loughrey, Linda Loughrey, Tony Fello, Edna Calkin, and Cynthia Dolan.
Robert Gabriel of Highland was also given some well-deserved commendation by the Federation.
Three years ago Gabriel was fined for feeding deer on his property. Gabriel had no gun or a hunting license at the time, and he claimed that the food he was putting out was for other animals. Even so, Gabriel was still hit with a $7,000 fine.
In September 2011, County Court Judge Frank Labuda overturned the previous ruling, reasoning that the first decision was a violation of Gabriel’s first ammendement rights.
When the $7,000 is returned to Gabriel, he plans to donate it all to the Federation.
Danchak thanked Gabriel and Judge Labuda.
“This Federation is very supportive of Robert Gabriel,” said Danchak. “All sportsmen and animal lovers must compliment Judge Labuda on his fair and correct decision. His decision will certainly help during critical winter months to prevent starvation of animals and birds in our county,” Danchak said.
Danchak took a few moments to discuss the Federation and highlight some of its upcoming events.
“With little over 100 clubs, the Sullivan County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is the largest Sportsmen’s Federation in New York State. We represent thousands of sportsmen, an honor we are proud of.” said Danchak.
Some upcoming events the Federation has planned are a Youth Ice Fishing Contest on Crystal Lake on January 26 and a three-day coyote hunt February 8, 9 and 10.
Special guests who were in attendance at the dinner included County Assemblywoman, Aileen Gunther; Sullivan County Legislators Scott Samuelson, Gene Benson, and Alan Sorensen; Sheriff Mike Schiff, Undersheriff Eric Chaboty; District Attorney Jim Farrell; County Clerk Dan Briggs; Town of Callicoon Supervisor Tom Bose; Town of Rockland Supervisor Ed Weitmann; Town of Cochecton Supervisor Gary Maas and DEC Conservation Officer Scott Steingart. State Senator John J. Bonacic was unable to attend the event, but he was represented by Linda Cellini.
“It [The Federation] does a lot for the economy of Sullivan County,” Gunther said. She went on to mention her family’s hunting tradition and wished everyone a great hunting season.