Thousands of outdoorsy Mainers stopped by the University of Maine’s Orono campus over the weekend to check out the 76th Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show, which was staged in the Memorial Gym, Stanley Wallace Pool and the newly refurbished New Balance Field House.
The star of the show, for me, was the field house itself. As one who has spent countless hours in the facility, either at shows, at track meets, or as an undergrad at the school, the changes were striking, and long overdue.
The field house is bright and clean. None of those pesky birds were flying from rafter to rafter, as sometimes happened. And the minor floorplan tweaking that the Penobscot County Conservation Association was handled well.
Some highlights of the show:
— Dogs, dogs, dogs. Each year, there are plenty of working dogs at the show. They do demonstrations on stage and in the pool, and are incredibly popular to adults and kids alike. How popular? Well, they certainly upstaged the state’s top-ranking fish and wildlife official. On Friday night, I stopped by the stage area when Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner Chandler Woodcock was answering questions from the public. Just a handful of spectators attended. On Saturday, I returned to the stage for a dog demonstration; all the chairs were taken, and people were lined up at the back of the hall to watch.
In fairness, show traffic was much slower on Friday night than it was on Saturday. Still, I think Woodcock would have drawn better if he’d brought along a well-trained bird dog.
— Canoes and kayaks everywhere. Old Town Canoe provides one of the coolest services at the show each year, and plenty of folks took advantage of the opportunity to test-drive some of the company’s boats in the pool.
The Old Town Canoe booth is always worth visiting, whether you’re dreaming about owning one of their new Predator fishing boats, or you just want to find out what kind of gear they’re selling.
Another reason to stop by: You’re often able to find out what the company has planned for its extremely popular spring canoe sale.
And this year, there’s some big news: After a few years of holding that blowout sale at vendor locations instead of the Old Town headquarters.
This year, the company has announced that it will again hold the sale in its parking lot at 125 Gilman Falls Avenue in Old Town.
The sale will be held April 18-20. Hours: Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The sale draws people from all over New England as well as from Atlantic Canada, and traditionally gives folks the chance to buy slightly irregular or blemished boats at steep discounts.
Mark the sale on your calendar and plan to be there!
— Wanna see a bear? From the “you never know what’s going to happen at the Sportsmen’s Show” file, this year’s surprise took the cake.
On Sunday morning, as I was setting up our booth for another day of talking to BDN readers, wildlife biologist Randy Cross stopped by with an offer I couldn’t refuse. There was a report of a bear that had been discovered inside a hollow tree in Orono, and he was scrambling his bear field crew to make an impromptu den visit.
I tagged along, and we discovered that there wasn’t one bear in the tree. There were four.
Of course, that was the day that I’d left my good camera at home … so I shot video and still photos of the bears with my iPhone, and cobbled together a package that you may have seen.