Sunday, January 1, 2012

Outdoors Shows Have Something For Whole Family

Sunday, January 1, 2012

There are people who get paid each winter to coordinate outdoor shows. Lou Brandenburg of Avella is assuredly not one of them.
He's been working since August to rent equipment, track down vendors and recruit help for the outdoor show being hosted by the Washington County Sportsmen and Conservation League Feb. 2-5 at Washington Crown Center Mall. He'll be busy now through then, wrapping up loose ends. He'll then work 13-hour days throughout the show.
But he won't get paid. In fact, the league won't either.
It's been putting on outdoor shows every winter for more than 40 years, but it's never made much money from them, Brandenburg said.
"We charge $100 for four days for people to set up a booth in there, so it isn't a fundraiser," said Brandenburg, the league president, with a laugh. "It costs us that much to put the show on.
"But that's not why we're doing it. We really do it to bring the outdoors to the public to see and enjoy."
In that sense, it's a success, he said. The show will attract 25,000 people, he said, some specifically for the show, others family members of sportsmen, who tag along and potentially get introduced to something they might not have been otherwise.
"It's more of a family atmosphere, and a fun time," he said.
The show is one of several put on each winter by local sportsmen's clubs.
While winter is the season for large, crowded, often overwhelming professional sport shows -- they're held across the state each winter, in Monroeville, Erie, Harrisburg, Boalsburg and elsewhere -- these local shows are different.
Sometimes, they feature outfitters booking hunting and fishing trips to far-away locales. The Washington show will feature a few out-of-state guides.
But they're generally more intimate than that.
The annual show put on by the Indiana County Bow and Gun Club is an example. It draws 150 to 200 vendors, so it's not necessarily small. And it's not free; the relatively small admission fee helps the club to "take care of all the things you need to keep a sportsmen's club open and running," said president Rodney Allshouse.
But it draws local businesses like gunsmiths, who would appear at larger shows.
"Whether it's building a complete custom rifle or that grandpa's old shotgun needs a hammer spring, they can make arrangements to handle those kinds of things," Allshouse said. "It's a chance for sportsmen and those folks to kind of meet and greet."
Likewise, the flea market and outdoor show put on by the Tri-County Trout Club at Burrell Lake Park won't wow anyone in terms of sheer size. It's a one-day event that will feature no more than two dozen vendors.
In fact, it began as something for members only, to swap gear amongst themselves, said club president Steve Hegedus.
But it's grown a bit to feature vendors who will be selling everything from sporting books and magazines, and turtle soup to antique lures and handmade rods.
"It's only a few dollars to get in, so it's something a family can attend together without having to think too hard about whether it fits in the budget," Hegedus said. "We raise a little bit of money, but mostly, it's about giving our members and the public something different to do in winter. It's mainly just a fun event."
The shows, though, come once a year. And that's plenty, Brandenburg said.
"When we first moved to the mall, a few of the shop owners worried that we were blocking their storefonts and would hurt business. But after the second day, I must have had 10 of them come up to me and ask if we could do one of these three or four times a year," he said. "They said we drew so much business, they loved it.
"I told them once is enough. It's a good thing, and I'm glad we do it, but once a year is enough

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