A good time was had by all April 1 as the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association (HHOA) brought its traditional wild game dinner and auction back after an enforced four-year hiatus.

The event is a major fundraiser for the HHOA, usually bringing in around $5,000. Sold-out this year, the Haliburton Legion played host to more than 180 locals who were treated to a buffet-style dinner featuring a wide range of wild game, including bear, venison, moose, elk, boar, and buffalo. There were also salmon and rainbow trout dishes to enjoy, with lead organizer, Dan Johnson, saying there was a little bit of something for everybody’s taste.

“It was a real treat for us to bring this dinner back to the community, we’ve really missed hosting it over the past four years,” Johnson said

Johnson noted this was the 28th wild game dinner held in Haliburton.

While a final fundraising total is still being calculated, he said the event had done “very well.” On top of money generated through ticket sales, there was a 50/50 draw, silent auction, and donation bucket beside a complimentary photo booth.

Johnson said he was blown away by the public’s ongoing support. HHOA offered to honor all the tickets purchased ahead of the planned 2020 dinner, which was cancelled nine days before it was to run due to COVID-19, but many supporters paid again.

“They said to treat that money [paid for tickets in 2020] as a donation… a lot of people offered to do that, which I think says everything about this community,” he said.

The money will be used to fund ongoing HHOA operations, which includes running the Haliburton fish hatchery. Since 1998, the organization has raised and stocked more than 800,000 fish in over 50 local lakes.

HHOA president Dan Smith said he expects to stock between 25,000 and 30,000 fish this year. Due to ice conditions, he said work will likely begin later this month. He’s unsure which lakes will be targeted yet, with that typically dictated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Johnson noted Saturday’s event served a dual purpose, with HHOA recently celebrating its 30th anniversary.

“We’re calling this year our 30-plus-one. We couldn’t celebrate our 30th anniversary in 2022, but we wanted to make sure we did something to mark the occasion. It’s an important milestone for us,” Johnson said. “We’ve done a lot of great things in the community over the past three decades, so it’s nice to celebrate that.”

He and Smith noted HHOA is planning a summer-time open house and family event at the fish hatchery, located on Gelert Road.