The 30th annual State of Maine Sportsman’s Show – the largest and most prestigious show of its kind in the state – runs April 2-4 at the Augusta Civic Center.

The 2010 show ranks as the largest one in the event’s 30-year history, according to Harry Vanderweide, the organizer. This spring’s production includes 100 seminars and stage events, 130 booths in the auditorium and multiple exhibits in the rooms around the main floor.

“The Maine Sportsman” magazine and Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine host this event and aim the attractions at the whole family, from great grandparents to young children. It really provides entertainment for everyone who has interest in the outdoors.

SMSS has a huge presence from Maine sporting camps and businesses, but it also gives folks a chance to check out fishing and hunting beyond our borders, particularly the Great Lakes and their tributaries. Canadian lodges and seminar speakers highlight their fishing and hunting potential, too.

One of the enduring features of this extravaganza is that it cannot be missed by folks in the know. It attracts a collection of who’s who in Maine, so visitors will see people they watch on television or read about in newspapers, magazines and books. It’s such a small, friendly show that the celebrities often react well to folks introducing themselves.

This year, L.L.Bean will display outdoors equipment and clothing on the main floor, including its new Silver Ghost fly rods.

This company’s experts also will give seminars on wing-shooting, reading water and deciphering what fish want. I’ve watched these Bean presentations, and they are top-notch, complete with lots of visual aids.

It’s common to hear folks complaining that this Freeport giant caters to yuppie clothes shoppers, but that accusation simply misses the mark, as the following illustrates. At the Augusta show, L.L. Bean will be purchasing used long guns from the public, showing the company has not forgotten its roots.

L.L.Bean sells a way of life, so the company carries all the equipment and clothing that folks need for whatever their hearts desire. Bean has also introduced a new line of clothing called “Signature Line,” aimed at a younger buying public. I have plenty of white in my beard, but these clothes appeal to me, too.

Joe Saltalamachia, a trophy buck hunter; Gary Crocker, a humorist; Roger and Russ Lambert, elk hunting experts; David Smus, an acclaimed wildlife artist; and Harold Porter, a collector of antique outdoors gear will be on hand, too, to entertain the public.

Contests with huge displays attract viewers, and this year, taxidermy, photography, wood-carving and art competitions will draw thousands of viewers. I’m one of the judges of the art, a tough, nerve-racking job because of the quality entries.

An ATV course outside the Civic Center will give children 8 to 16 years old an opportunity to drive an ATV after receiving instructions on safety and vehicle operation.

Trout Unlimited (TU) will give fly-tying instructions to young and old alike, but children get the most excited about the tying. TU seminars have become a perennial favorite.

This show always has hunting dogs, including versatile bird dogs and merry little spaniels – all so well trained that they wow the audience. Dogs have reigned as an attraction at the show for three decades.

A familiar complaint about this show intrigues me. It has limited fly-fishing options beyond Bean’s, TU and a few businesses. For one reason or another, though, fly-fishing stores avoid this show.

In the old days, nearly every fly shop in Maine had a booth there. I for one would like to see more Maine fly-fishing businesses attending the Augusta show and giving seminars, the latter great, free advertising.

If folks attend this event every year, they meet people who become old friends. Running into these showgoers becomes a big part of the spring for many of us.

If you happen to see me at the show, make sure to stop and introduce yourself.

 

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

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