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Sportsman’s Expo fosters outdoor appreciation

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

Outdoor interest is waning among youth.

"It seems like fewer and fewer young people are getting involved in the outdoors these days," said Mark Hadley of the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources. "We are concerned about that trend."

The Utah Department of Natural Resources is trying to create more interest among young people in the state. It will be organizing a youth fair at the International Sportsman Expo that will take place at the Sandy Convention Center on March 15-18.

"It’s important to us because the future of wildlife is in the hands of young people," Hadley said. "We want to do all we can to get them excited about wildlife and the places where it exists so they care about wildlife and so it will be around forever."

Aside from building a wildlife-friendly population, Hadley wants to enhance more lives by opening their eyes to the outdoors.

"The reason they will develop those kinds of feelings is, it will add a lot to their lives and that makes their life better," Hadley said. "We want to help people have a better life. At the same time, that will help that resource continue on in the future."

Hadley says researchers have labeled the lack of interest in the outdoors as "Nature Deficit Disorder."

"This has all different kinds of effects on kids," Hadley said. "They’re not in touch as they used to be."

The Youth Fair will also teach children about outdoor safety and an appreciation for the earth and its fragile ecosystem.

"What we try to do is, start young and help the children understand about things like boating safety, ATV safety, hunting safety and an appreciation for animals," said Tammy Kikuchi, the director of marketing for the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

Representatives will talk about elk habitat and why it’s important to preserve and leave open areas for large game. Kids will be able to compare themselves with the wingspan of eagles and identify animals by their fur, antlers, tracks and sounds.

"They can measure different size of birds, when they are flying you don’t have an appreciation for how massive these things are," Kikuchi said. "They’ll touch animal skins, they’ll look for prints and measure their feet and get an idea for those things as well."

Kids will also be able to catch some of Utah’s native fish in a 40-foot pond and a fishing stream to observe how they live in their natural environment.

"The kids really get excited, we put a lot of effort into it," Kikuchi said.

Kikuchi hopes the kids experience at the fair will educate them enough so they will be able to avoid possible dangers.

"We’ll also put on ‘drunk glasses,’ so they can see how they are if they are impaired, if they are drinking and boating," Kikuchi said. "Hopefully, if they’ll see these things later, if they see relatives and friends drinking (while boating), they’ll know this is not a smart thing to do."

Kids who attend will also be introduced to Utah’s state parks in order to generate interest in Utah’s outdoor recreation opportunities. Locally, they will be exposed to areas such as Jordanelle, East Canyon, Rockport and Echo Canyon.

"It should be a lot of fun for the kids. We’re hoping they will learn some things and walk away feeling like wildlife is pretty cool and ‘now I want to get outdoors and experience this,’" Hadley said.

Adults will also be catered to at the expo. The show expects more than 40,000 attendees. It will combine fishing, boating, hunting, off-road, and travel shows. Top local, regional and national experts will appear at a variety of stages and conduct seminars. There will be contests and competitions for enthusiasts of every skill level, such as the fly-casting competition.

There will be more than 500 different companies on exhibit from around Utah, the West and the world showcasing boats, motors and marine accessories; RVs, campers and outdoor gear; travel, vacations, lodges and resorts; fishing and hunting outfitters; fishing and hunting gear; outdoor apparel, hiking, mountain biking and scuba; outdoor gadgets and furnishings; shooting sports and gun clubs; trucks, trailers and aftermarket accessories; ATVs, motorcycles and personal watercraft.

With so many attendees in one spot, Kelly Cushing, of Westgate Resort in Park City, makes sure she attends every year.

"The reason we go is we get so many buyers," Cushing said. "We have a lot of success, we get so much exposure."

Cushing says the show helps her have face-to-face contact with potential customers.

"It’s such a good show as far as demographics," Cushing said. "Every year it always delivers."

Cushing says the expo fits with Westgate because it is easy to sell Park City at an event like this.

"We offer snowmobiling, horseback riding, it’s something that’s good for the family," Cushing said. "We have a lot of activities that we offer here in Park City, there are so many options, it’s not just coming here and at the resort."

Dogwatch of Utah, a dog training company based in Midway, will also be exhibiting at the expo.

"It’s an experience," said Susan Dinter, manager of Dogwatch. "There are a lot of hands-on kinds of things, everything from fishing to demonstrations to watching exhibits."

Dinter says her favorite thing is the bears from Yellowstone National Park. According to Dinter, for a fee, attendees can hold bear cubs and have a picture taken.

Dinter has attended the event for the last four years. She said it’s a chance for Dogwatch to show themselves to people who are not aware of the company.

"We meet a lot of people there," Dinter said, "it’s been good for us. It gives us an opportunity to be in front of a lot of people who we don’t get a chance to meet."

Also based out of Midway, Jake Ricks runs Pleasant Valley Hunting Preserve, Six Lakes and Hidden Springs Ranch. The locations provide guided fishing, pheasant hunting and guest ranch lodging opportunities. Exhibiting at the expo provides a marketing opportunity he doesn’t get anywhere else.

"For a business like mine, it’s a great place to show current customers that you are there that you’re in that market. It helps us best by being able to interface with people directly. Other kinds of advertising are not the same as talking to people," Ricks said.

More information on the show and advance tickets can be found at http://www.sportexpos.com . Discount coupons are available at all Utah Sportsman’s Warehouse locations and Big O Tires stores throughout Utah and in southern Idaho.


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