Thousands expected to turn out for 79th annual sportsmen show in Orono

Come mid-March every year, some of us start watching the weather reports a bit more carefully, Are we planning a great adventure? Not really. Are we afraid shoveling snow? Hardly. Instead, we’re dreading the kind of weather that might make folks hunker down and stay home during the annual Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show, which is staged in Orono.

People test out kayaks and canoes provided by Old Town Canoe in the University of Maine field house pool during the 76th annual Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show in Orono in 2014.
BDN photo by Aislinn Sarnacki

This weekend marks the 79th edition of the show, which is put on by the Penobscot County Conservation Association, and though the weather isn’t optimal — it’ll be cold outside, for sure — I’m confident that our fellow Mainers won’t let that get in the way of their attending one of the region’s traditional harbingers of spring.

The show kicks off Friday, and runs through Sunday, at the University of Maine field house, Memorial Gym, and pool. Hours: 5 p.m.-9 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday. Kids under 12 will get in free, while adults and kids over 12 pay $8. A weekend bracelet is available for $15.

And as has become our custom, the BDN Outdoors crew will staff our own booth, and we hope you stop by for a visit. I’ll be there for most of the weekend, as will my colleague, Aislinn Sarnacki.

For the first couple of hours on Friday, however, both of us will be in Bangor helping to host the BDN’s Dirigo Speaks series featuring author Michael Finkel. If you were hoping to stop by between 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, you’ll find our other colleague, Julie Harris, in charge of the booth. She’s also very knowledgeable, and raises some top-notch bird dogs. Ask her about them!

So, what will we be up to? Glad you asked.

First, let’s start with what we won’t be up to: Nobody will try to sell you anything. Period. There’s enough of that going on. All we want to do is have the chance to say, ‘Hi,” and listen to what your suggestions for future stories.

A highlight every year is our “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest. Again, we’re not trying to sell you a ticket that will offer you entry into this popular contest. We’ll give you a ticket to fill out. And if you win, you’ll go fly fishing on the East Outlet of the Kennebec River with guide Dan Legere of the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville. (And me. Yes, there is some fine print: You’re must be 18 or older to enter, and you’re stuck with me.)

The trip will take place on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 18.

The show is a classic outdoor expo, with all kinds of traditional outdoor activities on tap. Want to see some taxidermy, or talk hunting or guns or fishing? You’ll be in the right place. There are also plenty of things for kids to do — archery, an air gun range, and fly tying, to name just a few. And there will be all kinds of food to sample.

In addition, one of the things that sets this show apart from many others is the fact that the UMaine pool is featured prominently. If you want to test-paddle an Old Town Canoe Co. canoe or kayak, watch hunting and retrieving dogs in action, or learn to fly cast, the pool offers plenty of exhibition options.

Here, though, are a couple of other things I hope you’ll take note of:

  • At 6 p.m. on Friday — just after the show gets up and running — the BDN’s own “Banjournalist” Troy Bennett will take the stage to sing a few songs. Bennett may well be the most talented person employed by this company, and you may have seen his hilarious songs on our website. If not, this is the perfect place to sample  a few. And heck, I bet he event plays his original tune about the North Pond Hermit.
  • — At noon on Sunday, Aislinn will present a talk you may want to check out. Titled “Family-Friendly Hikes in Maine,” our favorite hiker will entertain and inform, and she’ll also share a secret with you. (OK. I’ll share the secret here): The talk is based on a book of the same name, which will be released later this year. And if you’re looking to place an advance order on the book, Aislinn will be glad to tell you how to do that.

Hope to see you at the show!
John Holyoke can be reached at or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.