Thursday, April 24, 2014
By Ken Allen
Next weekend the 33rd State of Maine Sportsman's Show runs from Friday through Sunday at the Augusta Civic Center, an event that has always aimed to offer family fun for all ages -- but particularly for children.
The Maine Sportsman magazine and Sportsman's Alliance of Maine co-host the show and have arranged kid-oriented, hands-on activities such as archery shooting, BB-gun practice, free fly-tying lessons, ATV rides, children teaching fly-casting to youngsters and a pond with live trout where youngsters can catch fish.
Youngsters can also find a "kid zone" as well as a variety of interests at booths filling the auditorium floor and surrounding rooms. As sports shows go, this isn't a huge event, but it is big enough so no one can see it all in three days. For starters, there are too many seminars going on all at once.
When showgoers stroll around aisles and into side rooms, it's common for them to spot small groups composed of grandparents, parents and children enjoying a family day together. It's even possible to see four generations, but great-grandparents in the group prove less frequent.
Extremely well-trained hunting dogs are everywhere at this show, and a point about these impressive canines needs special mention. People with limited dog-training skills cannot help but note what a dog is capable of learning. In fact, in my youth at this very show, the dogs there gave me an idea of what skills I could teach my own little buddies. That surely helped me enjoy my dogs far more.
Folks at the show can talk to successful dog trainers, say at the Maine Spaniel Field Trial Club, and get an idea of how to turn their pet into a biddable companion that doesn't get them in minor or major trouble.
What kind of trouble? Following is a minor example:
Once, my intrepid companion, Jolie, and I were hiking on public trails along the Damariscotta River, when not one but three chocolate labs came barreling down a hill. I was wearing shorts and despite the owner's yells to control a huge male, he jumped up and scratched my bare thigh deeply enough to bleed.
The lab's owner, a woman, was in the near distance and hollered, "Don't worry ... he won't hurt you."
"He already has!" I bellowed.
She looked sorry enough, but sorry doesn't get it done. I have a quaint notion that humans should be able to walk on public property without receiving a bacteria-laden wound from an uncontrollable pet with poorly manicured toenails.
Joe Saltalamachia conducts buck-hunting seminars at the show, a must-see presentation for deer hunters. Saltalamachia, 44, has hunted in the Northeast, Midwest and Canada and on top of that, has put five 200-pound-plus bucks into the Biggest Bucks in Maine Club.
One seminar option at SMSS will interest water lovers and anglers -- standup paddleboarding. Scott Shea, a master Maine guide and owner of Seaspray Kayaking, can get folks into this pastime, one of the faster-growing water sports in the country.
Basically, people stand on what looks like a surfboard and propel it with a pole or paddle while fishing or just playing in the water. These watercrafts can be used in still water, rapids, surf and open ocean.
My oldest daughter has an interest in waterboarding off Long Island and along canals on the island there. It's a sport that can be done anywhere.
In recent years, noted Lewiston artist David Footer and I judge the largest outdoor-art exhibit in the state, a must-see show, and a quick anecdote illustrates why.
The works are so good that the responsibility of choosing the best ones gives me a great deal of trepidation -- even a headache at times. Artists put so much energy, work and themselves into their creations.
(My judging is for free, and I have nothing else to do with the show, a disclaimer for writing about the event.)
The show takes place this weekend. On Friday the times run 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $7 for folks between the ages of 13 to 64, and $4 for 5- to 12-years-old, a fee that has remained stable for myriad years. Senior citizens 65 years and older and soldiers in the active military pay $5.
Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at: