Hunting & Fishing Days Didn’t Disappoint
Approximately 42,000 people came to the John A. Logan College campus in Carterville on Sept. 22-23 to enjoy Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days, and I’m glad to say that a large percentage of them were kids. This year was the 25th year for the event, and show organizers couldn’t have asked for better weather to celebrate their silver anniversary.
I got the chance to sit down Sunday afternoon with Ron Allen, who worked in promotions and events for the DNR and, in that capacity, was one of the founders of the National Hunting and Fishing Day events here in Illinois. The event transferred from being run by the DNR to a nonprofit committee and then finally to the college itself, but Allen has remained involved throughout its history. He has many memories from the Southern Illinois show’s 25-year run, including the first year when it was held at Rend Lake before moving the following September to the John A. Logan campus. More than anything, his favorite memories are of seeing how children have enjoyed the event – particularly the fishing pond.
“There’ll be 200 kids down there fishing – little bitty tykes – and every one of them with a smile on their face,” he said. “I love to go sit over there on Sunday afternoon and watch the kids fish.”
This year’s event had something for everyone and included more than 180 vendors, but many of the new items on the agenda were geared toward the youth. Allen said that 70 youngsters participated in the new novice goose calling championship, including one who was just four years old. Organizers also added a Kids Adventure Run that rewarded children with a goody bag if they got a special card punched at six different outdoor-related activities. A live wildlife display featuring bears, a cougar and a wolf drew a lot of spectators both young and old, as did the always popular Dock Dogs jumping competition.
Allen said his other favorite thing about the event is seeing all of the friends he’s made during his many years as a show director, including some vendors who have been part of the expo each year since its inception. His thoughts seemed to echo my own from the blog post I put together prior to the show. Like Allen, I was excited to see old pals that I hadn’t seen in a while, and many of them were there. I got to shake a lot of hands over the weekend.
Perhaps those of us who are within an hour’s drive of the John A. Logan campus take this growing event for granted, but it really is remarkable that after all this time it continues to get bigger. It has been deemed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation as the largest National Hunting and Fishing Day celebration in the United States, and that’s something to be proud of.
“There has been a steady growth year after year, and that’s why I’m kind of proud of it,” Allen said. “After 25 years it continues to get bigger and better, and we get more people almost every year. It’s amazing.”
I agree. For those who stopped by the Illinois Outdoor News booth, it was good to see you again or to meet you for the first time. Hope to see you all again next year.