Be the light: Fishing derby for families

The Basin Electric ad campaign “Be the light” shows how Basin Electric and its member cooperatives can be the light in communities and homes like only a cooperative can.

You may have seen the story in the March/April 2017 Basin Today Magazine, Be the Light: How Basin Electric employees shine in their work. This blog feature goes by the same name, with the same function – to highlight employees who shine.

Once a year, the Stanton, ND, park busts at the seams. The aroma of grilling brats and hot dogs drifts up amongst the hundreds-of-year-old cottonwood trees, mingling with the tang of fried fish.

It’s all because one family decided people need to do things together.

Joe Neumiller, Dakota Gasification Company supervisor of shift maintenance, runs the Ed McLain Memorial Old Man and Kid Fishing Derby, taking over a tradition that started 22 years ago by Neumiller’s uncle Ed and aunt Julie McLain. The McLains owned the Stanton Super Valu for many years until their retirement.

The fishing derby is free, meant to be a day of togetherness for families. Trophies are awarded for the biggest fish and most unique fish, which usually isn’t a fish at all. “We’ve had small sand toads, a turtle. Once we even had a gar,” Neumiller says. “All the kids get prizes, and we award trophies for first through fourth place.”

A community potluck follows, with businesses supplying the meat to grill. “Last year, one family donated 100 pounds of fish to fry,” Neumiller says.

In the first year of the derby, a couple dozen people showed up. Today, nearly 500 people take part in the fishing and eating.

When McLain died, aunt Julie and her friends took over the planning for several years until handing the work to Neumiller. “I didn’t want to see it die. Kids were a big thing for Ed and Julie. They couldn’t have any of their own,” Neumiller says. “My wife’s little brother started coming to the derby when he was two years old. Now he’s 22 years old, working at Dakota Gas, and he’s helping me out.”

Neumiller says the derby is something the kids look forward to every year. Several Basin Electric retirees serve as cooks during the meal. “A major portion of the co-op shows up to fish and help me run the derby,” Neumiller says. “It’s been that way for years. My dad worked for Basin TSM (transmission system maintenance) for 36 years. I just knew Basin Electric was where I wanted to be.”

Blast from the past in this Sept. 2012 story on the derby: Dakota Gas employee helps kids get hooked on fishing


  1. Any Bergeron says:

    Growing up in Stanton ND with Joe as my neighbor makes me super proud reading this article. I had the wonderful opportunity to know Ed McLain as a kid and hung out with him and Joe’s sister Emilie. A huge shout out and thank you to the Neumiller family for carrying on this wonderful event. My own kids have even participated in this event which was a great experience for a kid. Again, thank you to everyone who makes this event a wonderful tradition!

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