The 32nd State of Maine Sportsman’s Show takes place next weekend, March 30 to April 1, at the Augusta Civic Center. It’s the largest of its kind in the state, with 130 booths, 100 seminars, and many exhibits in the auditorium and in rooms around the big hall.

The Maine Sportsman magazine and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine co-host this extravaganza, and for many Mainers and visiting non-residents it unofficially kicks off the open-water fishing season. You know – the last indoor event before we disappear outdoors for several months.

This sportsman’s show draws big crowds of like-minded souls, so naturally, attendees bump into old friends and make new, enduring ones. In fact, each year, this is the only place where I see many old acquaintances.

One feature of the weekend has always impressed me. Show producers aim to make it a family affair that pleases generations of men, women and children alike. Sometimes I’ll even see a group there consisting of a grandparent or two, parents, children, and at times, even grandchildren.

Maine ATV offers an opportunity for kids to ride in the civic center parking lot, Trout Unlimited teaches children how to tie flies, and the Maine Bowhunters Association shows youngsters how to shoot a bow and arrow. The show also has a moose-calling championship.

Seminars include something for everyone – from buck and turkey hunting to trout and tarpon fishing, and from rod wrapping and turkey calling to dog training and bear hunting.

L.L. Bean seminars offer a first-class learning experience, because this company has done them for a long time at the flagship store in Freeport. They’ve polished their presentation skills.

At the Augusta show, two speakers from L.L. Bean shine. Keith McDonald covers shot-gunning for game birds and clay targets, and Rod McGarry talks about becoming a better fly rodder. McGarry once worked as an inspirational speaker, so he gives an exuberant presentation.

Other Bean speakers talk about surf-casting in Maine, trolling tactics for early season salmonids, gearing up for turkeys, setting up a bow and prepping a firearm.

Harold Porter brings antique fishing and camping gear to display at the show. I’ve know Porter for a quarter-century, and his products from yesteryear bring back forgotten memories.

Displays of woodcarving, fine arts, photography and taxidermy have been a perennial favorite during the weekend, and folks often stand in lines to see these four options in a room off the main auditorium.

Major sporting-goods dealers attend the show, bringing with them fishing gear, firearms, camping equipment, deep-sea fishing boats and many other outdoor-related businesses.

The show often has another attraction that impresses me. Someone will be selling a gadget that I never knew existed but suddenly cannot live another day without – say, a tiny backpacking wood stove, or a knife-sharpening device that easily creates a razor edge.

One last attraction needs mentioning. Folks will see extremely well-trained bird dogs through the weekend, so well-trained that they wow anyone who sees them. This gives dog owners an opportunity to compare their dogs’ behavior with that of canines polished to a high degree.

The show runs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children 5 to 12, and free for younger folks.

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

[email protected]