The dozens of pop-up campers, travel trailers and full-sized RVs easily could lead someone to believe the salmon were running early this year, but in actuality it was people preparing for fishing, hunting and numerous other outdoor activities, all part of the 19th annual Kenai Peninsula Sports Rec and Trade Show being held this weekend at the Soldotna Sports Center.
This year's show features 70-plus exhibitor booths and more than a dozen demonstrations and seminars.
Gary Hull not only was working a booth for his businesses Slammin' Salmon and Far North Outfitters, but having won predator caller of the year at the 2001 world championship, he also was demonstrating his calling techniques during a seminar Saturday.
"There's a lot of interest in predator calling," said Hull. "It's roughly the third fastest growing gun sport. There's a lot to it, but it's a lot of fun. More and more people are getting into it to fill the off season."
According to Hull, after the hunting of moose and caribou winds down, the predator calling picks up. "Locally, I do most of my calling around Marathon Road, Swanson River and Cooper Landing," he said. "I've been able to call in wolf, coyote, lynx and bear."
Being skilled at calling in animals the average person tries to avoid has gotten Hull featured in two television shows. "One of the shows is supposed to air on the Outdoor Channel next week," he said.
Kenai Peninsula resident Jessica Taylor stands behind the current issue of Xtreme Wildlife magazine that features her photo on the cover as she sells subscriptions and talks about hunting and fishing with those who stopped by the magazine's booth Saturday at the Sports Rec and Trade Show.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Hull wasn't the only person with a television spot at this year's sports show, though. Jessica Taylor of Nikiski, working the booth for the Kenai-based Xtreme Wildlife magazine, also will be the focus of an Outdoor Channel program next month.
"I'll be doing a bear hunt in Nikiski on May 5th, and they're going to come up and film it," said Taylor. "I've been hunting for awhile, but this is my first time hunting bear so I'm very excited."
The television show isn't Taylor's only claim to fame. She also is on the cover for the April issue of Xtreme Wildlife a job that kept her busy signing autographs Saturday.
"We've had exceptional interest," said Dan Cox, who also was working the Xtreme Wildlife booth. "People are excited to have a local magazine and so far our cover talent has been all local girls and I think the editor plans on keeping it that way."
Across the arena, a $15,000 shooting pavilion co-sponsored by the Kenai Peninsula Chapter of Safari Club International and Alaska Department of Fish and Game saw a steady steam of traffic. Sports show patrons could take their turn firing laser rifles at life-size animals including moose, caribou and bear on a screen several yards away.
"This teaches firearm handling and safety, the fundamentals of shooting and skills for good shot placement," said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with Fish and Game. "It's also fun there's no denying that."
In addition to working the shooting pavilion, Lewis taught seminars on bear baiting, bear safety and the bear-safe neighborhood project.
Not all the excitement was in the main arena Saturday. In a side conference room Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley announced April 24 as "Mitch Seavey Day on the Peninsula" and presented Seavey the 2004 Iditarod champion with a large, framed proclamation. A big crowd attended the event, including several peninsula mushers. Hobo Jim serenaded Seavey in honor of the occasion.
Also, outside the arena, the Lance Domonoske Living Memorial Trout Pond was stocked with fish, and many children were able to catch and keep a few to take home.
"I did good," said Johndavid Ahlberg of Soldotna, who was able to land three of the seven fish he hooked into.
"It was easy to get them to bite, but hard to get them in because they would struggle and shake off."
Overall, those attending said they were pleased with this year's sports show.
"I've never been before, but I thought it was really good," said Melissa Maal of Sterling. "There was a wide variety of things for hunting and fishing, lots of samples to taste, give-away contests and lots for the kids to do. It's got me excited to go camping and get outdoors."
Gary Tanghe of Sterling also enjoyed the show.
"I've come every year for 10 years, and I thought it was a good show this year. I'm interested in fishing so I picked up the new regs, got some lure ideas and found out about some charter options for when people come up to visit," said Tanghe. "It really gets the spirit of the season going."
The show continues today from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
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