Boat show season is in high gear and the beauty there is fishing season is just around the corner. Ice anglers have had a banner opportunity this year with the cold we have experienced and for those of us who like the open water, it’s time to get the boat ready and tackle purchases completed.
This weekend is The Pantagraph Fish & Feather Expo at the Interstate Center and by all accounts it will be the biggest one on record. A full show is great to see.
Bloomington-Normal and the surrounding area is ripe for a show like this and I have said for years there cannot be a better location. You have a large population base within 100 miles, three Interstates that intersect here and a large following of anglers and hunters who keep up with the latest in boating, hunting and fishing.
In years past we have had some great shows in the area. Rantoul used to have an outstanding show at Chanute. It was a boat and tackle haven and was held in a hangar there. Decatur had another great show at its civic center on the ice rink and although it was small, it also had tons of tackle and boats. People flocked to this one, too.
Here in Bloomington we have had the Lets Go Fishing Show and a couple of others, but none have gotten legs. However, I believe the folks now running the show, Jonell Kehias and her team, want this show to hit the mark and their hard work is beginning to pay off.
Although they were part of last year’s show, this is their first year of doing it solo. They have increased the size, looked for companies that sell outdoor related products and have the commitment to grow it even further moving forward.
Tackle and boats are a big deal at an outdoor show and folks want to be able to buy fishing gear. This year there are more tackle vendors and it will be stuff all of us use. In particular, crappie and bass fishing gear will be covered with local experts on hand to talk about local lakes and how to use that gear.
I would like to see local, regional and national manufacturers and sales folks get on board with this show. The ultimate goal is to make this the go-to show for Central Illinois and I honestly believe the parts are in place to make that go.
Halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, plus the aforementioned Interstate connections, makes it a logical destination, but we have to have tackle, boats and gear at this event. No offense to window and siding companies, but they have the home shows and this is the outdoors.
It should be outdoors-related products and destinations. It would seem that Kentucky Lake Resorts and outfitters from Lake Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota destinations could benefit largely from a show like this in Bloomington.
The goal is to outgrow the Interstate Center. That could take a few years, but I believe if we get the right vendors and outdoors people will give it a chance, it can be very successful.
The “build it and they will come” mentality can be painful, but it is important to get traffic so vendors see value in this show. Rest assured the effort is there from The Pantagraph’s perspective and honestly we need a good show in this area.
Everything sets up well for this year’s show to be a success. Tackle vendors, boat sales, local experts and I almost forgot … great food, too.
The hope is to get nationally known pros and experts, national vendors and more attractions for outdoors people, but I would hope McLean County and the surrounding area will support this show this year and years to come. It is important to have a blend of all things outdoors. Come out and talk hunting, fishing, camping and whatever trips your trigger in the outdoors.
The McLean County Sportsmen 27th Annual Wild Game Dinner is Feb. 3. Proceeds benefit children and our parks in the area. Cost is $35 in advance and $40 at the door. There will be a buffet dinner, cash bar, raffles and an auction. Hope to see you there.