Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days celebrates its 25th anniversary on the campus of John A. Logan College in Carterville this month, and while I’m a relative newcomer compared to many of the faithful attendees from the past quarter-century, planning another weekend at the expo still feels like something of a homecoming.
The event takes place on Sept. 22-23 this year, and many of the activities and characters from years past are returning again this time around. Calling contests, Dock Dogs, Camo the Clown, Brody the Bear, a catfish competition and other alliterations will greet thousands of spectators, as will a host of outdoor product vendors. Fishing seminars and lots of activities for the kids are on-tap again, as well.
I’ve attended the event as either a spectator or on the vendor side for Illinois Outdoor News for a number of years now, including the past five consecutive ones, and I’d have to say that I’m really looking forward to this year. Driving onto the campus and seeing all of the displays and tents will likely bring back a flood of memories, as well as memories of a few floods.
One of my favorite memories of the expo was the time that my taxidermist delivered the mount of my best buck to me right there at the show; how I saw the finished product for the first time as he plucked it from their display, and felt just a little more proud than I should have about the second glances it got. Then there were the years when it stormed or poured rain; the smell of wet dogs and everyone scrambling to keep their merchandise intact. Another favorite was an informal, pre-show worship service put on one Sunday morning by one of the other vendors; it was held in front of the giant fish tank, and I recall musing about how many prayers in history have been uttered over a container of fish. One of last year’s highlights was making the acquaintance of a flintknapper from Mulkeytown and buying one of his handmade flint turkey calls, as if I needed another turkey call. But then, none of my buddies had one like that, and it does have a unique tone…
Most of all, what I like about Hunting and Fishing Days is that it’s a chance to see people I haven’t seen for a while and reminisce about good times. People I’ve met at the show in previous years, or hunted with in the past, will undoubtedly be there again, and when I’m taking a lunch break from the booth I’ll be trying to look them up. While I’m in the booth, other old friends who came as spectators will pause as they wander past to give me a little grief, and I’ll feed it right back to them in good humor.
Then, of course, it’s also a great place to meet some new friends, and I invite you to stop by the Illinois Outdoor News booth that weekend to say hello or to wish me a happy birthday (no kidding, it really is my birthday on Saturday and I’m shamelessly accepting gifts all weekend if anyone wants to bring me something – like maybe another turkey call). It’s great to meet more like-minded folks and to hear what’s on your mind, so please drop in if you have a minute. Subscribe or renew while you’re there and we’ll have a free hat for you, and rumor has it our selection this year will include pink ones as well as the standard black or camo options.
If you’re sentimental about the show or have a youngster who might like a neat memento, they have prepared a limited run of commemorative Daisy BB guns for this milestone year. Details about the guns are on the website at www.sihfd.org, and one look at these Red Ryder styled shooters is almost certain to bring back some more good memories.
To Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days organizers, I say congratulations on your 25th year! Thousands of us are getting ready to celebrate with you.