January 22, 2019
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It’s time to shake the cabin fever at Brewer outdoor show

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
File photo from 2009 of two- and four-legged participants at the Penobscot Fly Fishers' Cabin Fever Reliever, which is slated for this weekend at the Brewer Auditorium.

If you’ve had enough of winter’s icy grip, you’re surely not alone. In fact, the Penobscot Fly Fishers has planned an event that will help you see the (sun) light at the end of the (wintery) tunnel.

The club calls it the Cabin Fever Reliever, and the small outdoor expo returns to Brewer this weekend for the 11th straight year.

The show is being held at the Brewer Auditorium. Hours of operation: Saturday, March 3, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday, March 4, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

And as always, you can’t beat the price: Admission is free.

“We want people to be able to come in the door, not to have to pay five bucks a head or whatever. If you’re a young family with a couple of kids, that adds up really quick,” show chairman Mike Hegarty said. “We’re not here to make money. We’re here to plant an idea of a way of life in somebody’s head. And I think we do a pretty good job of that.”

The show began in Old Town in 2005, and after a two-year run there, it wasn’t held in 2007. It resumed in Brewer in 2008, and has been held annually ever since.

Hegarty said the show has come to play an important role among local outdoor enthusiasts and youngsters alike.

“I think it’s sort of a rite of passage for the local community,” Hegarty said. “It’s one of the first major events [of the year] and I think there’s something attractive about the small venue — Brewer Auditorium — and [our vendors] are all local exhibitors. It’s sort of a hometown feeling.”

The pace of the show is typically laid back, with visitors invited to spend as much time as they like chatting with the exhibitors.

“The most feedback I get as chair is, ‘I’m exhausted from talking all day,’” Hegarty said. “Whereas, if you go to some of the bigger shows, people kind of walk by and barely make eye contact.”

And the focus of the Cabin Fever Reliever is different than you may find at other expos.

“This is not just people showing up to sell you something,” Hegarty said. “We make sure that everybody focuses on some educational aspect about either the state of Maine or our outdoor heritage. I think that probably has something to do with [the show’s popularity].”

One highlight of the show is the raffle of a 16-foot Old Town Canoe. Tickets are $1 for one and $5 for six, and last year’s raffle sold out before the close of business on Sunday.

As it’s organized by a fly fishing club, it’s no surprise that the Cabin Fever Reliever features plenty of fly tiers willing to talk about tying or show kids how to tie. But there’s plenty more to see, including popular archery and air rifle ranges. And this year, a hunting dog exhibition will return after a few years away.

“There’s a little bit of everything to try to capture some youngster’s imagination,” Hegarty said. “And perhaps, someday, have him or her decide they want to go pick up a fly rod.”

The Cabin Fever Reliever is the first outdoor expo of the Maine season, but surely not the last. Here’s a list of other outdoor-related offerings over the coming weeks:
— The 80th Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show will be held at the University of Maine field house, Memorial Gym and Stanley Wallace Pool March 16-18. Please note: This show often falls just a week after the Cabin Fever Reliever, but that’s not the case this year — there’s a lag week in between the shows for 2018.

— The Bangor Boat Show, another spring classic, is set for March 16-18 at the Cross Insurance Center.

— The Presque Isle Fish and Game Club’s annual Sportsman’s Show is set for March 24-25 at the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Gentile Building.

The State of Maine Sportsman Show, billed as the state’s largest outdoors expo, will be held March 30-April 1 at the Augusta Civic Center.

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