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Submitted photoJoe Coogan, host of the TV's "Benelli on Assignment," will offer two seminars at this weekend's hunting and outdoor show.
From special guest speaker Joe Coogan, host of the TV show, "Benelli on Assignment," to retriever dogs and fox trapping demonstrations, photography contests and more than 100 different vendors, the annual Maryland Hunting and Outdoor Expo makes it easy to track fun to its lair.
The expo is considered the largest in Maryland, said Nick Simonds, a coordinator for the event, and will take place at the Charles County Fairgrounds in Bel Alton Saturday and Sunday.
"It all started five years ago," Simonds said, adding that he went to a hunting show with his friend and fellow coordinator, Giovanni Rodriguez, on the Eastern Shore in Talbot County. "It was a nice show, very much just for men — really nothing for kids or women."
Rodriguez said the show seemed almost like a flea market for outdoor paraphernalia.
"We left saying, Why should we have to drive two and half hours to go to a hunting show when there are so many outdoorsmen in Southern Maryland?'" Simonds said. "We decided we were going to make [the Maryland Hunting and Outdoor Expo] more of a family show."
Three years ago, Benelli, a shotgun manufacturer headquartered in Accokeek, signed up as a major supporter of the event. "They stepped up and said, We love having a local Maryland hunting show in our backyard, we want to step up and support you guys any way we can," Simonds said.
Cristie Gates, Benelli's media and exhibit manager, said they wanted to support the event "because we are a Maryland company. We will have a booth there and people will be able to come and look at our firearms … and see if we have anything they'd like to buy."
Although Simonds and Rodriguez had seen Coogan on television, they had no idea he actually lived in Charles County.
"With him being a local celebrity, we kind of wanted to highlight that this year and with Benelli being headquartered locally, that's another thing we wanted to promote," Rodriguez said.
Coogan will host two one-hour-long seminars — one on Saturday and one on Sunday — when he will talk about his experiences as a TV show host and his hunting experiences around the globe, Rodriguez said.
The second biggest draw, next to Coogan, would be the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' trophy deer contest, Simonds said. "All of the deer from all 23 counties in the state are brought here and put on display and entered in the Maryland record book for trophy whitetails."
He added that deer shot in the past also can be entered into the record books. "They can bring heads from the '50s, '80s or even three years ago, it doesn't matter."
For the kids, there will be a rock climbing wall, different inflatables and slides. There also will be a youth archery clinic put on by the Maryland Bowhunters Society and an exotic animal show.
"Even though we are a hunting show and we want to keep it that way, we kind of expand on that with the activities for the kids," Rodriguez said.
"This year we added a photography contest, which again opens it up to people who enjoy the outdoors. We want to make it fun for as many people as possible. … Not just for the dad that hunts, but also for the wife and kids."
Last year, Simonds noticed that even with the current economy, people would come and spend the whole day at the expo "almost like they were at Kings Dominion," he said. They would make a day of it instead of just hanging around for an hour or two and leaving.
"People are looking to stay local and go to something right down the street that they can adopt as their own."
If you go
The fourth annual Maryland Hunting and Outdoor Expo will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 28 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Charles County Fairgrounds, south of La Plata. Admission is $7 for one day or $10 for a two-day pass. Children 12 and younger are admitted for free.
Skip the line and buy tickets online at www.mdhuntingexpo.com/online-tickets/. By purchasing online, guests are registered for a special drawing for a guided goose hunt on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
For more on the event, go to www.mdhuntingexpo.com.