ELMA — More than 3,500 people packed the 2013 Grays Harbor Outdoor Adventure & Travel Expo this past weekend, getting their antlers and trophies scored and meeting local and national personalities in the world of hunting and fishing. They even got a peek at vehicles that take you on road and off road or through water and took in a live show of trained bears.
The attendance figures top the 3,000 or so the expo received last year. Figures account not just for those who paid for admission, but also vendors and youth under 5 years old, who got in for free, according to Fair & Tourism Director Mike Bruner.
Bruner said that a lot more families took in the show this year.
And there was a rush at the beginning with waits Saturday morning coming in excess of an hour. Those in the afternoon, however, didn’t have any troubles getting in. Bruner said that, next year, the event will have more people selling tickets to meet the obvious demand.
Celebrity appearances’ by Nick Mundt from the “Bone Collector” series and crew members of the Northwestern fishing boat featured on the “Deadliest Catch” series, Edgar Hansen and Nick Mavar Jr., brought fans in for autographs and pictures. As the big kids looked for a better fishing rod and a chance to speak to professionals in hopes to gain insight on the best way to catch the biggest trophy, the little kids were thrilled by the Great Bear Show.
Periodically through out the weekend the Great Bear Show staged an educational look at five North American black bears. Bob Steele has been running the Great Bear Show since 1977 and travels to educate the public and raise money for the conservation of bears by showcasing the bear’s natural talents.
Not only does the viewing audience get insight as to bears in the wild, but they also see the bears dance, ride a scooter and show their natural ability to balance on wheels or beams. The bears that are part of the Great Bear Show are primarily gained through animal rescue when they are orphan cubs as a result of careless hunters. The bears are then cared for, raised and trained to be handled safely. Some return to licensed factilities as in zoos, but most, if not all, would die if left in the wild to fend for themselves as orphaned cubs, Steele said.
After the show, members of the audience are provided an opportunity to have a picture with one of the bears. The bear, in this case one named Andy, sits in a chair and is divided by a safety glass divider from the public. Andy is 23 years old weighing in at 485 pounds. There was no shortage of people wishing to have their picture taken with the docile bear.
After the show, people could venture through the main pavilion where they could speak to the scheduled celebrities including Glenn Hall of Hawg Quest, who has been a fixture of the Outdoor Expo every year Grays Harbor has hosted the event. Hall hosted two seminars about fishing during the Expo, and was always available to the public to talk about fishing and his adventures on the water.
In the main vendor area, plenty of stalls enticed the public with the latest gadgets, outdoor information, taxidermy and the occasional food product. One of the show’s sponsors, Horns and Hooks of Aberdeen, was also on display airing the latest episodes of their new TV show, and speaking with their growing audience. Briner notes that one of the most popular spots was the horns and antlers competition where people got the trophies in and get scored for free and got prizes based on book and state records.
On Saturday night, the vendors were hosted to a vendor appreciation banquet which featured Humptulips as the band.
Bruner said he’s formed a committee with vendors to get more of a buy in to next year’s fair, which he expects will be even bigger.
“We’ve really hit on something that the community wants to attend,” Bruner said. “There’s a lot of growth potential here as the show continues to expand and grow.”