Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Family fun abounds at Ultimate Sport Show, March 17 to 20 at DeVos Place

Why is The Ultimate Sport Show one of Michigan’s favorite annual events? Answer: Because for 65 years it has proudly served many of the state’s army of outdoor enthusiasts.

Today, those outdoor lovers include 1.4 million licensed anglers, 750,000 licensed hunters, and 1.4 million wildlife watchers. For them and their families, the Ultimate Sport Show provides wall-to-wall fun, conservation education and special buying opportunities for fishing and hunting boats, fishing tackle and hunting gear.

John Loeks, Sr. launched the show in downtown Grand Rapids at the old Welch Auditorium in 1946. This year’s 66th edition, March 17 to 20 at DeVos Place, 303 Monroe NW (next door to what was Welch Auditorium), remains true to its roots.

There is a Pellet Shooting Range with certified instructors offering lessons and a Trout Pond with frisky rainbows for kids to catch. The nominal donations for those activities, as well as the popular Virtual Fishing Simulator and the Rock Climb, go to non-profit or charitable causes like Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

On the weekend, members of the Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation NATION will host a free Casting Kids Contest. The club provides all equipment and will teach boys and girls proper techniques and let them practice before competition begins.

The family-favorite “Ultimate Air Dogs” feature with Milt Wilcox is free every day as are the incredible displays of lifelike animals, birds and fish by the Michigan Taxidermists Association, which holds its annual convention and juried competition at the show.

“Big Buck Night West,” an annual family staple on Michigan Out-of-Doors TV Show, will be filmed on Thursday starting at 7:00 p.m. It, too, is free with admission.

More than 100 scheduled seminars on fishing, hunting, dog training, growing wildlife food plots and other subjects are free with admission. Other in-booth demonstrations draw crowds all day long. Patrons young and old, for example, delight in watching members of the Woodland Woodcarvers whittle away at creations both serious and whimsical.

Terry McBurney from Ada exhibits antique fishing tackle and will appraise artifacts for patrons at no charge. That old wooden fishing lure that Junior found in Grandpa’s tackle box could be priceless. And there’s more snapshots from the past: Dick VanRaalte from Grand Haven displays vintage boating products including a restored wooden boat and several collectible outboard motors.

Bill Yoder’s Live Big Game Show lets youngsters get up close and personal with white-tailed deer, a black bear, a fennec fox baby and a young bobcat.

What kid doesn’t like to nibble on elephant ears, honey-mustard pretzels, roasted almonds or beef jerky? If the youngsters are still hungry, DeVos Place food concessions sell family food and beverages.

More than four acres big, DeVos Place is crammed with hunting gear, fishing tackle and other outdoor products, including camping equipment—all at great bargains. There is bottom-line value on fishing boats, duck hunting boats, pontoons and pleasure boats, along with boat docks, lifts and other accessories

Outfitters Expo provides the public with nearly unlimited family vacation and adventure travel, including hunting and fishing destinations throughout North America and beyond. You can even book a pike fishing trip in Alaska, a family houseboat adventure in Kentucky, or a safari in Africa.

Kids are among those who enjoy collecting the commemorative Dardevle spoons that Eppinger Manufacturing Co. in Dearborn hands out each year on Thursday and Friday to the first 500 show patrons. On Saturday and Sunday, Carlisle Float Company will offer free fish scalers to the first 250 attendees.

And Cran-Hill Ranch family campground in Rodney is bringing its Family Fun Zone, a free, hands-on experience for the kids. That is, if the kids have any energy left!

Show hours are Thursday, March 17 from 3:00 PM to 9:30 PM; Friday, March 18 from 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM; Saturday, March 19 from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM; and Sunday, March 20 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission is $10 for adults and $4 for children 6 to 14. Kids 5 and under get in free.

Tickets may be purchased at the DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena box offices, ticketmaster ticket centers, including D&W stores and select Family Fare locations, charged by phone at 1.800.745.3000 or on-line at ticketmaster.com.

Discount coupons are available at the Grand Rapids Press, and Wendy’s restaurants. For more information, go to www.UltimateSportShow.com or call 800-328-6550.