May 26 • 05:25 PM

'Weekend' draws thousands

Record-matching crowds turn out for annual Wood-N-Water News show

Showgoers filled the fairgrounds for the 24th annual Outdoor Weekend. More photos are on page 2-C. photo by Maria Brown.

September 15, 2010
IMLAY CITY — The Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds was teeming with visitors over the weekend (Sept. 10-12), all celebrating the arrival of autumn and the 24th Annual Woods-N-Water News Weekend.

While organizers say they have no official attendance numbers, best estimates suggest that that 12,000-15,000 outdoor aficionados and their families passed through the turnstiles during the three-day event. Once in, attendees set off in multiple directions where they were able to visit dozens of vendor stations and enjoy a myriad of outdoor-related demonstrations and activities.

The W-N-W News Outdoor Weekend had its origin in the fall of 1986, when Randy Jorgensen decided to create an event devoted to the interests of outdoor enthusiasts and promote his young outdoor publication.

Since then, the event has grown exponentially, expanding its appeal to include spouses, children and those looking for a fun place to take the family on an autumn weekend.

Woods-N-Water News Editor Tom Campbell said the "Weekend" incorporates just the right mix of family activities, while remaining loyal to the original intent of the outdoor show.

"We try to measure the success of the Outdoor Weekend based on the enjoyment of the attendees and for our exhibitors/vendors," said Campbell. "We want both to have a great experience are extremely pleased – everything went wonderful…other than the rain on Saturday afternoon.

"Our attendance figures aren't completed yet," Campbell added, "but we expect to be as good as last year's record crowd — if not better.

"The quality and variety of exhibitors was outstanding this year," he said, "particularly with so many of them coming from our local community and Lapeer County."

Among the best-attended activities at the 2010 Weekend were traditional favorites like the Puppy Tent, Milt Wilcox's "Ultimate Air Dogs," and exhibitor barns where more than 175 vendors displayed and sold hunting and fishing equipment and related outdoor goods.

Other popular visitor destinations were the 8th Arkansas and 22nd Michigan Civil War re-enactors encampment, the Native American dancing and stories by Reg Pettibone, the Birds of Prey exhibit and Saturday's Annual Camp Chili Cook-off.

Other busy spots included Alexandria's Bus (featuring children's nature activities), the Outdoor Weekend 3-D Shoot and "deer butchering and field dressing tips" offered by Steve Francis, owner of the Country Smoke House.

Twelve-year-old Jacob Allen and his dad, Jon, were at the show Saturday to check out the latest models of snowmobiles and ATVs.

Sitting behind the wheel of an orange Polaris RZR, Jacob said he would soon be taking part in his first youth hunt and was anticipating the experience.

"It's a good time," said Jacob. "I like to see all the dogs, plus I get to spend some time with my dad."

Ben Lasher of Marysville was also joined by his son, Jake, on Sunday. Having worked at the DNRE's booth on Saturday, Lasher said he wanted to return

"I go to a lot of these shows around the state," said Lasher, "and this is one of the best."

Also on Sunday, Lyn Coffey and granddaughter Maddie Parasiliti, both of Ortonville, spent time enjoying the Civil War encampment and the traditional craft sites.

"I didn't expect this to be so big," Coffey said with a smile.

Campbell credited many others with having contributed to the success of the Outdoor Weekend.

"The success of this event is the direct result of working with great people," said Campbell. "Our family (that now includes four generations led by 78-year-old Delores Heim) is instrumental.

"We have to thank our terrific staff, along with the Eastern Michigan Fair Board Fair Manager Ian Kempf, Police Chief John Stano and the police department, Fire Chief Kip Reeves, the DPW workers, Imlay City Rotary Club, Boys Scouts from America Tall Pine Troop #127, the Lapeer County Posse, Tri-County Equipment, Novak's Sales & Service and Siegler Farms.

"Most of all," said Campbell, "we want to thank the entire community for its support and all those who turned out over the weekend."

With yet another successful event behind him, Campbell is already contemplating how to make next year's Outdoor Weekend bigger and better.

"Now the pressure is on," said Campell. "We've got to come up with some great ideas and plans for our 25th anniversary show."

The next Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend is slated to take place Sept. 9-11, 2011, again at the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds.

"It's pretty amazing how far this show has come in the past 20-plus years," Campbell mused.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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