by Keith Crowley - Monday, August 13, 2018
It’s every hunter’s dream event: a regional festival devoted to outdoors sports—a festival where you’re encouraged to bring your guns, your bows, your whole family and your hunting dogs; where you can get a walleye shore lunch, try out the latest hunting and shooting gear, watch world-class exhibition shooters and attend hunting seminars and other special events. I’m talking about Minnesota’s Game Fair 2018 set for Aug. 10, 11, 12 and Aug., 17, 18, and 19 at Armstrong Ranch near Anoka, Minn. Now in its 36th year, the event is modeled on European hunting festivals. Next to the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show (formerly the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, which launched in 1955) it is perhaps the longest running festival of its kind in North America.
From Game Fair’s inception in 1982, founders Chuck and Loral I Delaney have striven to make Game Fair an all-inclusive, family-friendly event. Everyone is welcome to visit their enormous Armstrong Ranch Kennels grounds for two long weekends each August. I went to my first Game Fair in the inaugural year and attended many times in the first couple decades. Then I moved away and missed a few years so it was a pleasant and welcome experience to return this weekend and see how the all-American mainstream hunting event has grown.
For one thing, Game Fair is now no small event. More than 45,000 people passed through the gates last year to see the hunting seminars, test their hunting dogs’ skills and check out the latest products from 300-plus exhibitors. A similar number is anticipated this year with booths dedicated to archery, conservation, deer hunting, waterfowl decoys, duck boats, wildlife art, dogs, dog accessories, turkeys, taxidermy, ATV’s, trucks and the latest in outdoor equipment.
Wildlife conservation organizations including Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, the NRA and more are onsite to explain the important work they do to preserve our hunting heritage, from the 24/7 efforts of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action to the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum—including producing this NRAHLF.org website. NRA and hunting and shooting organizations including the youth-oriented USA High School Clay Target League also are on hand to promote the benefits of the shooting sports.
Game Fair offers something for every hunter. Naturally there are plenty of gun and archery shooting events. And if you want to test your dog on agility, water retrieves or even big-air jumping, you can do that at Game Fair, too. In truth, the crowd enjoys watching the amateur dogs and trainers run through the stations as much as the experts. You will see every hunting dog breed under the sun and numerous breeds that aren’t traditional hunters but seem to enjoy the events as much as the pointers, setters and retrievers. You can think of Game Fair as Disneyland for your hunting dog. Most exhibitors have dog treats on hand, and there are cooling stations and dog wading pools scattered across the 80-acre fairgrounds.
If a product is designed for hunters, Game Fair will have it on display. Exhibitors from Federal Ammunition and GMC Trucks to smaller hunting product manufacturers will have the latest and greatest tech toys on display. Among many things I did at Game Fair last year was spend a few minutes listening to the guys from Dakota Silencer talk to customers about what’s new in their line. Clearly innovation is still going strong in the shooting and hunting industry.
Most popular of all, Game Fair offers a revolving schedule of daily seminars. Featured presenters include well-known dog trainer and breeder Tom Dokken, Hall-of-Fame trap shooter Nora Ross, trick-shooter Travis Mears and expert archer Frank Addington Jr.
Because Game Fair is a family affair, there are many activities for kids, and experts are on hand to get them started on the right foot whether it’s shooting a shotgun, rifle, pistol or bow, calling turkeys and ducks, setting up a deer stand or training their new puppy. There’s nothing quite like this event in the United States. If you are lucky enough to live within a reasonable driving distance of Anoka, Game Fair won’t disappoint.
But don’t expect Game Fair to be like any fair you’ve ever attended. There won’t be any rides, bright lights or music. Instead, you will be surrounded by like-minded folks enjoying what we all consider an integral part of our lives, making it the perfect primer as we head into the fall hunting seasons.
Again, Game Fair 2018 runs Aug. 10, 11, 12 and 17, 18, and 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed and registered at the entrance gate. Your guns and bows are welcome, too, but must be cased. The facilities are immaculate and offer ample water stations, restrooms and food vendors. For more information on this family-oriented hunting event, click here.
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