Sportsman Expo reels in sizeable crowd in Parkersburg
PARKERSBURG — Now in its fourth year, the Mid-Ohio Valley Sportsman Expo drew hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts to the National Guard Armory in south Parkersburg on Saturday.
The event started in 2014 as a small program at Bethel Baptist Church on Lake Washington Road, said J.B. Campbell, logistics officer for the event.
Saturday’s show was sponsored by Bethel Baptist, Tri-City Baptist and Grace Baptist churches. It featured vendors, exhibitors and seminars offering a variety of information, services and resources for sportsmen, including boats, RVs, ATVs, fishing equipment, hunting items and others.
For this year, Campbell said they added new vendors, including boats on display.
With the support of local businesses, organizers also set up a children’s area with games, giveaways and activities this year after had a lot of children attended last year’s event with their families, he said.
The seminars presented during Saturday’s event included programs on turkey calling, trapping, waterfowl, filming and kayak fishing. Saturday’s featured speaker was by Fred Bennett, of Chattanooga, Tenn. Bennett is director of ministry for Titus International and enjoys small and big game hunting and trout fishing. He is a wild game dinner speaker and a member of the Christian Bowhunters Association, the NRA, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Wounded Warriors and has a ministry for the Jewish community.
The range of vendors included the National Wildlife Turkey Federation, the National Rifle Association, Trout Unlimited, Mountwood Park, the National Guard and Westbrook Health Services.
Eric Barrett, general manger of Lemon and Barrett, said the recreational vehicle provider has been involved in the expo since it started.
“We always like to get out and try to display our products,” he said, adding that while sales rarely happen during events like the expo, they help to generate business down the road.
Barrett said the business is pleased with its involvement in the Sportsman Expo due to the growth he has seen in the past four years.
“It’s grown quite a bit,” he said.
Ronald Stalnaker, with the Blennerhassett Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said the chapter has been involved in the event since it started four years ago at Bethel Baptist.
Stalnaker said events like Saturday’s Sportsman Expo offer a way to provide exposure for the group and to seek new members. He sets up the display and enjoys talking with visitors during the expo, from those new to the sport or considering to longtime enthusiasts.
“Most of them are trout fishermen who stop by. A hunter will walk by and he’ll glance and he’ll walk away in 10 seconds, but if he’s a trout fisherman he will look close so you can tell by how much time they spend here,” Stalnaker said with a laugh.
Larry Gray, with Wildlife and Skull Taxidermy in Letart, W.Va., said Saturday’s event was the first time they have participated in the Mid-Ohio Valley Sportsman Expo. They generally attend the annual Hunting and Fishing Show in Charleston each year, but after receiving information about Parkersburg’s event in January decided to make the trip.
“It’s a new area. We’ve put a lot of advertisement out in the Charleston, Beckley, Huntington area but the Parkersburg area, we’ve really not been in. This gives a chance to come up here and do a little bit of advertising and hopefully pick up some business,” he said.
Gray said he was pleased with what he saw at Saturday’s event and hoped to return in the future.
Tim Waybright, a member of Tri-City Baptist, has been involved in the expo for two years through his church. He was enthusiastic about introducing people to kayak fishing at Saturday’s event, which he described as the fasted growing segment of the fishing industry.
“I have yet to take anybody out in a kayak and get them on a fish that didn’t love it. It’s introducing people to a different sport and a different way of fishing,” he said.
“You tend to have two different types of people that are kayak fishermen. The first are fishermen who are looking for an easy way to get on the water, to get on fish and get access to water that you can’t access to any other way. Then you have kayakers who have never fished before and you get a rod in their hands. They are familiar with kayaks and then they get hooked on kayak fishing,” Waybright said.
Campbell said the event grew out of an interest in serving outdoor enthusiasts in the area. West Virginia has hunting and fishing opportunities of various types through most of the year, along with forests, trails and waterways which are attractive to recreational vehicle riders and boat owners.
Its first two years were spent at Bethel Church and the last two have been at the Armory on Blizzard Drive, as interest among vendors and visitors has grown each year. Nearly 50 vendors participated in Saturday’s event. Campbell said organizers are expecting to see that interest continue to grow and are looking to see if other larger venues are available for the future.
“This is a mission for us, for the churches. It’s an outreach for everyone of us,” he said.