Big Rock Blue Marlin is more than a fishing tournament.
Since 1957, the tournament has raised more than $5 million for local charities.
One event that brings in big bucks is the annual awards banquet at the end of the week.
This year’s featured artwork is looking to set a record at Saturday night’s auction.
Wilmington-based marine wildlife artist Steve Goione has been the featured artist three summers in a row.
The past two years, his original art has auctioned off for a record $25,000 both times.
This year, he is looking to surpass that number with every penny going to charity.
Goione said the inspiration for this year’s artwork came from veterans.
“Sometimes life takes you on a direction and last year they introduced Big Rock Big Hero, and that is where the Big Rock honors six active service men and women,” Goione said. “They are nominated to come and get to fish and be anglers. It was such a powerful moment for me each day out there that really stuck with me. We have got to pay attention and help them out in any way we can.”
The artwork this year features two Blue Marlin surrounding an American flag.
“We need to keep the Blue Marlin as the focus, but get that American flag in there, because this is an all-American weekend in the summertime in Morehead City,” Goione said. “It just represents the Big Rock, our military and everything that the Big Rock stands for.”
“The flag jumps out at me first,” veteran Miles Standish said. “To see the stars and the stripes just brings out, that is America to me, that is what the whole meaning of this is.”
Standish is a Vietnam veteran who said he is moved by Goione’s work.
“I wanted to thank him for what he was doing,” Standish said. “It’s fifty years ago when I was there, so we didn’t have that when we came back so to see the progress that has taken place over the past 50 years and the wars that have taken place have really helped guys like me to see what society is doing to help.”
Media director Bruce Paul said saluting veteran is a cornerstone of the Big Rock tournament.
“It is extra special to me because I served in the Marine Corps, but we have Army, Air Force, Coast Guard personnel that go out,” Paul said. “Our service members sacrifice so much. We can give them back something that helps them realize there are a lot of people that support them and they appreciate them.”
Goione said the all-American weekend in the summertime in Morehead City could not happen without our veterans.
“I feel odd when they come up and they want to thank me for what I did; I say’ no, no, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be doing this. If it wasn’t for you and all you have done, we wouldn’t be having the Big Rock,” Goione said. “They are that first step out there that allow us all to live the lives we do here. It is what our country is and living in this country allows us to do to have a celebration like this.”
The awards banquet is Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Crystal Coast Civic Center.