The armada of ATVs, RVs, boats and trailers in front of the Soldotna Sports Center this weekend could only mean one thing the return of the Kenai Peninsula Sport Rec and Trade Show.
"This is the best year so far," said "Ninilchik Tom" King. "I come every year for the tackle and to see all the new stuff. This year there's far more products, vendors and more drop-off hunts for local guys."
King had more than a dozen halibut poles under his arm that he purchased at the show.
"There are good deals to be had," he said. "I saved $700 on these poles."
Jerry Matthews was out with his family looking at fishing gear, as well.
"It's a good time of year to have the show," said Matthews, who also attends the show annually. "It comes at a time of transition before fishing season really gets going."
The visitors weren't the only ones enjoying the show. Most of the vendors were pleased with the large crowds.
"It started out slow, but it's really picking up now," said Gary Hondel, who was reporting on the show for the Peninsula Radio Group and attempting to give away a 24-foot travel trailer.
"I wouldn't be surprised if many of the vendors make more in three days here, than they normally would in a month or two," he said.
Park Ranger Michelle Ostrowski was working a booth for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
"We're hoping to promote the centennial of the wildlife refuge system that's coming up," she said.
She had been asking many of the visitors who stopped at the booth where they hailed from.
"It's been mostly Alaskans stopping in, with a lot of them being from here on the peninsula," she said.
In addition to all the sports gear, equipment and services for sale and on display from more than 100 exhibitors, the show also featured several seminars.
Bear attack survivor Mark Matheny gave a presentation on the facts needed to survive in such a situation.
"I'm here to promote awareness," Matheny said.
He's also the founder of Universal Defense Alternative Products. A company that manufactures the most potent, EPA-approved pepper spray.
"People always think a bear attack can't happen to them, but it's like wearing a seat belt it's better to be prepared."
He said he also tries to promote the use of nonlethal deterrents because, "it all boils down to saving lives both human and animal."
Not all the excitement was inside the sports center. Outside there were numerous exhibits, as well as ATV rides and a trout pond for kids sponsored by the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association.
"Fish on," yelled Camryn Boulette, while her rainbow trout jumped and splashed in the pond.
"It was hard getting him to bite. I had to jig it up and down," she said. "But it was fun catching it."
The show runs through today. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children and seniors; admission is free to those age 8 and younger.
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