GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - When March rolls around and west Michigan outdoor enthusiasts want to pick up a good deal on hunting and fishing gear, learn a new tactic to success, or just enjoy a day in the company of other like-minded conservationists, they head for a common destination: the Ultimate Sports Show-Grand Rapids (USG).
For the past 68 years the show has put Michigan's phenomenal outdoor resources in the spotlight with entertaining and educational activities. This year's four-day show will continue that tradition - in a big way!
"We are truly blessed with abundant natural resources in Michigan and hundreds of thousands of West Michigan residents enjoy recreating in the outdoors each year," said Show Manager Ben Nielsen. "From hunting and fishing to camping, hiking, mushroom picking and bird watching the Ultimate Sport Show-Grand Rapids really does have something for everyone."
West Michigan's Best Deals on Fishing/Hunting Boats, Tackle and Gear
According to Show Producer Henri Boucher, between 35,000 and 40,000 patrons annually attend USG. They come to peruse the four acres of goods, gear and conservation displays packed into spacious DeVos place.
A total of 13 dealers are bringing more than 200 fiberglass and aluminum boats from more than 40 top manufacturers. With new year factory rebates, extended warranties, special discounts and other incentives-many of which expire March 31-the show is a veritable supermarket for people looking to buy a new, fully-rigged boat hunting and fishing.
The show appeals to major national manufacturers, who bring their impressive factory-direct exhibits, and to one-of-a-kind producers of specialty fishing lures, game calls and other outdoor-sport accessories. Patrons have a chance to learn about and to buy many of these products only at the Ultimate Sport Show because they are not sold in sporting goods stores and other retailers.
An expanded crossbow shooting range and a fly-fishing demonstration area allow patrons to test new gear before buying.
North America's Best Selection of Guides and Outfitters
Outfitters Expo, which attracts hunting and fishing guides and outfitters from Alaska to Africa, is a show within the show. Patrons can compare features, offerings and prices from a wide selection of Canadian fly-in destinations, big-game hunts out West, caribou hunting in Quebec and exotic safaris to Africa. Michigan offerings are also available in full force with charter boat captains, inland lake guides, hunting preserves and family-destination vacation resorts reserving space.
Many tourism agencies and convention and visitors bureaus from Michigan and beyond rate the show a must-do on their promotional schedule. Why? Because the long-standing show is so huge that patrons come from throughout the state, as well as Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Ontario.
Michigan's Best Taxidermists and Woodcarvers
The Michigan Taxidermist Association's state competition and display of award-winning mounts, located on the third floor Grand Gallery Overlook, is the first stop for many show patrons. Judges are flown in from around the nation, and the winning results are announced at 3 pm on Thursday, opening night of the show.
Patrons get to see between 200 and 300 lifelike displays. The Grand Rapids-based Woodland Woodcarvers also attract an admiring crowd with their stunning display of lifelike art. These, and many other attractions, are free with admission.
The State's Best Seminar Lineup
Seminars, scheduled with more than 40 of the best hunters and anglers in the business, are another big draw. This year, USG will offer more than 100 informative seminars led by experts such as walleye professional and AIM Angler of the Year Marianne Huskey and morel mushroom expert Theresa Maybrier of Team Morel. There will also be seminars on wilderness adventure canoeing and kayaking, traditional survival skills, walleye fishing, bass fishing, muskie fishing, fly fishing, perch fishing, turkey hunting, and deer hunting, dog training, food plotting and more. Continuous seminars will be held on six different stages including the 5,000-gallon Hawg Trough - which returns to USG after an absence of several years - and the 110,000-gallon Lake Ultimate.
Special two-hour Super Clinics will be offered on walleye fishing, salmon and trout fishing, and bass fishing. These clinics cost $25 each for class materials, but the money is returned to participants through "goodie bags" loaded with sponsor samples.
The National Wild Turkey Federation's Grand Valley Chapter will offer a turkey-hunting workshop so gobbler chasers can prepare for the upcoming spring season. A highlight for deer hunters is a Saturday-only live demonstration by Steve Francis of Country Smokehouse in Almont on how to process a whitetail.
Big Buck Night West is Standing-room Only
Speaking of whitetails, Big Buck Night - West, presented by Michigan-Out-of-Doors TV Show, will take place Thursday night at 7 pm. Celebrity hosts Jimmy Gretzinger and Jenny Olson, along with special guest Tony Gates of WLAV-FM, will interview the lucky Michigan hunters who bagged some of the largest white-tailed deer of the 2012 season.
Family Fun Activities Galore
There are plenty of hands-on activities available at USG. The Newaygo County Sportsmen's Club brings a pellet gun shooting range to DeVos Place. For a nominal $1 fee, which goes to conservation, NRA-certified instructors teach accuracy and safety to shooters of all ages.
The Northern Little League will operate one of the state's best trout ponds; the Michigan Charter Boat Association will have its virtual fishing simulator at the show; the Grand River Fly Tyers will offer free fly casting lessons to beginner and advanced fly fishermen; and a rock-climbing wall will be available for adventurous patrons who want to test their climbing skills. The affordable fees for these and other activities go to scholarship program and other charitable causes.
Milt Wilcox's Ultimate Air Dogs will once again make a big splash on Lake Ultimate and the antique and classic fishing tackle display and an exhibit of vintage boats and motors always attract crowds.
Michigan's largest outdoor show will also feature fly tying demonstrations by the Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company and the Grand River Fly Tyers, kayak and paddle board demonstrations by experts from 37 North, and fish cleaning demonstrations by the Grand Rapids Steelheaders.
Open Turkey Calling Contest Returns
On Saturday evening between 6 and 8 pm, an assortment of clucks, purrs, yelps and cackles will fill the air at DeVos Place as the annual Grand Rapids Open Turkey Calling Competition takes place. Hosted by the Grand Valley Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the event will feature some of Michigan's top callers as they compete for cash and prizes.
Huge Gathering of Conservationists
Conservation clubs, state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations always have a strong presence at USG and this year's show will be no different. The Michigan Charter Boat Association, the Hiawatha Sportsmans Club, Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, the Michigan Muskie Alliance, the MSU Fishing Club, the National Rifle Association and the River City Bass Club are some of the organizations that have reserved space.
State and federal agencies from the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources to the Michigan Secretary of State and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol will have staff on hand to answer questions from show patrons.
Non-profit groups like Operation Injured Soldier, Pink Rack Project, Scholastic Clay target Program and Sportsmen for Youth will have displays at USG outlining their goals and aspirations.
Free ORV Safety Certification Class
ORVs and ATVs are gaining popularity in Michigan as the state's trail system continues to expand. In response to the growth in that industry, the Kent County Sheriff's Department is offering an ORV certification class on Saturday only, from noon to 5 p.m. The course is available to everyone, but children under 16 years old must be certified to operate an ORV in Michigan, even on private property. For additional information call (616) 632-6223.
Annual Food Drive Challenge
Last year's Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger Food Drive, spearheaded by the popular WLAV-FM morning-show host Tony Gates, was a huge success with more than 2,000 bags of non-perishable food donated by show patrons. The popular promotion occurs only on opening day of the show, Thursday, March 21.
"I challenge the sportsmen of west Michigan to beat last year's donation," said Boucher. "Let's really show how caring and thoughtful Michigan's sportsmen are by bringing a bag of food for those less fortunate."
Bring your donations (minimum of 4 pounds or 6 cans or boxes) to the RV parked on Monroe Avenue in front of DeVos Place and get free admission to the Ultimate Sport Show. The food will be donated to God's Kitchen and other needy organizations. Help Tony Gates and MSAH volunteers from the Rockford Sportsmen's Club set another record this year!
The first 500 attendees on Thursday and Friday will receive a free, collectible Dardevle spoon from Eppinger Manufacturing Co. in Dearborn. The first 500 attendees on Saturday and Sunday will receive a free Quick Fillet Tool from Quick Fillet Productions in Plymouth.
Show hours are 11 to 9:30 Friday; 10 to 9 Saturday and 10 to 5 Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, $4 for children ages 6 to 14 and children 5 and under will be admitted free.
Discount coupons are available at Wendy's.