Outdoors event draws enthusiastic crowd

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 21, 2009

The Lincoln County Wildlife Expo drew big crowds and made bigdollars during its two-day run over the weekend, prompting eventorganizers to gladly declare the second annual celebration of allthings outdoors a success.

Lincoln County Multi-Purpose Facility Manager Quinn Jordan saidmore than 3,000 people attended the expo to check out the more than40 hunting and outdoor vendors occupying the facility during Fridaynight and Saturday, doubling last year’s attendance totals. Theexpo exceeded organizers’ initial expectations, despite having abudget around $2,000 less than last year’s event and beingseparated from the annual Ole Brook Festival in 2009.

“Our sponsors are great on quality, but short on quantity,”Jordan said. “But, even though we had less money for advertisingthis year, we’re going to get where we need to get. Proceeds fromthe expo are used for the facility’s operating budget and expansionplans, and we should have money left over for expansionopportunities.”

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Jordan said the reason for the expo’s success this year islikely because of the family atmosphere the multi-purposecommission labored to produce. He said around half of the 3,000attendees this year were children.

“I think the family-oriented environment we were shooting for wenot only achieved but surpassed,” Jordan said. “I’ve seen mothers,fathers and families all together enjoying hunting and the outdoorsthis weekend.”

With the 2009 wildlife expo closed, Jordan said he and thecommission would take stock of this year’s event and target a fewchanges for next year. One change already decided upon for 2010 isthat those entering the contest for the main door prize – this yeara muzzle-loading rifle – will have to be present to win.

On a larger scale, Jordan said the expo needs more retailvendors. He would like to add vendors that offer outdoor productsbeyond simply hunting, as well as vendors that sell more outdoorand hunting apparel, like camouflage clothing. All are in the worksfor next year.

“It’s just going to take more and more booths selling and usgrowing,” Jordan said. “Retail booths were up this year, and that’sa really good draw for people to get great deals on the stuff theyneed and also see what’s coming up for the next hunting season.Overall, when we envisioned this expo, we’ve achieved our vision,but we’d always like to make it better and continue to grow.”

Jordan and the multi-purpose commission are focused on improvingthe wildlife expo, but those who attended the event over theweekend were pleased with what they’d found.

“It’s nice to have one here in town,” said East Lincoln’s DavyDunn, who was a first-timer at the expo. “I’ve been hunting mywhole life, so I just came to check it out.”

Brookhaven’s Tina Lambert agreed, and she’s not a lifelonghunter.

“It gives people of all ages something to get out and do, andanother place to socialize besides Wal-Mart,” she said, laughing.”I’m just learning all kinds of different things. I didn’t knowthey had so many different kinds of flashlights.”

The thousands of visitors at the expo helped support not onlythe wildlife expo, but Ducks Unlimited, a national non-profitorganization devoted to waterfowl and wetlands conservation. DucksUnlimited volunteer Bert Carollo said the organization’s booth sawa great turnout of visitors throughout the course of the expo, manyof which bought chances on a Charles Daly 12-guage shotgun.

“Our local chapter is really big, and we raise a lot of moneyfor the ducks,” he said. “Lincoln County is not traditionally aduck-hunting county, but there’s a lot of people who live here whotravel off to hunt in other areas.”

Carollo said his organization’s appearance at the expo paves theway for its annual banquet, which will be held at the multi-purposefacility on Nov. 17.

Brookhaven chiropractor Mark Giust really didn’t spend much timegoing booth-to-booth at the expo, but he still said the event was”fantastic.” He and his wife Anna Giust, the Mississippi Bow Hunterof the Year in 1996 and 1997, spent most of their time lettingarrows fly at Van’s Archery’s range in the arena.

“Just coming out here and seeing all the people I know, justconnecting with people,” he said. “That’s what’s fun aboutBrookhaven – seeing all your neighbors and getting to meet newpeople.”