If you’re among those who love to watch sporting dogs in action, you’re in luck. This weekend’s Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show, which is run by the Penobscot County Conservation Association and held at the University of Maine in Orono, has just about every kind of dog-related activity you could hope for.
Like retrievers? Got ’em. Want to learn about blood-tracking dogs that can help you find the deer, bear or moose that you shot and lost? No problem. How about watching a Maine Warden Service K-9 in action? The show has that, too.
In fact, it might not be much of a stretch to say that this year’s show has officially gone to the dogs. Just ask Woody Higgins.
Higgins, who relinquished the reins as show chairman this year after 16 years at the helm of the Orono show, said there’s even a new dog-related addition for this year’s event that he’s sure everyone will love.
“[One] that stands out is Seacoast Dock Dogs,” Higgins said. “If you’ve seen the dogs that run out and leap, fly through the air and land in the pool, they’ll be there. This will be the first time that we’ve had them.”
The Dock Dogs will be in action Saturday at 10:15 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m., and Sunday at 11:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.
Show hours are Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission for adults and children over the age of 12 is $8. Kids under 12 get in free.
Higgins is still handling some of the publicity for the show he has come to know so well. He described the event as a rite of passage and a signal to eastern Mainers that the long slog through winter is nearing an end.
“I think it’s telling us that spring is almost here, and we’re going to see it. And I think a lot of people are ready for that,” Higgins said. “It gives you a little bit of exposure to the stuff that’s coming down the road as the snow goes away and the ice goes away, and we can get back on the water and in the woods without getting snowbound.”
The show will feature more than 110 exhibitors, and Higgins said between 5,000 and 7,000 tickets are sold each year. The PCCA uses those proceeds to fund scholarships at UMaine, the University of Maine at Machias and Unity College, and camperships to youth conservation camps each year.
At UMaine alone, Higgins said the PCCA has given more than $2 million in scholarships over the years.
The show was held for the first time in 1933 at the old Bangor City Hall, according to the PCCA website. It moved to the old Bangor Auditorium from 1940 until 1955, then to the “new” auditorium from 1955 to 1987. It’s been at the University of Maine field house, Memorial Gym and Wallace Pool since 1988.
Trivia tidbit: Though it has been held 80 times previously and is staged on a yearly basis nowadays, this is not the 81st “annual” show. The show was not held during some of those early years, and this actually marks the 81st show over an 87-year period.
This year the PCCA has chosen to honor one of its longtime members, former BDN columnist and artist Tom Hennessey, who died in December.
“Tom was a pretty active member of the club and had been for many years. If you look at our show poster or our ads, he provided us with a piece of his artwork for probably 25 or 30 years,” Higgins said. “We decided from all the things he did to help us out, we’d honor him, and the show is dedicated to his memory this year.”
BDN at the show
Once again this year, BDN outdoors staffers will spend the weekend at the show, and we hope you’ll swing by to say “hi.”
My colleague Aislinn Sarnacki will be on hand all day Saturday, and she’ll be presenting a talk on “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” — not coincidentally, that’s the name of her second book — at 12:30 p.m. If you would like to purchase a book and have her sign it, I’m sure we can arrange that as well.
I’ll be at the booth all weekend with Julie Harris, who writes our “It’s a Bird Dog’s Life” column. If you have any dog-training questions to ask, stop on by.
We’ll also be taking free entries into our popular “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest. One lucky winner will join me and registered Maine guide Dan Legere for a fly fishing trip down the East Outlet of the Kennebec River on Sunday, June 16.
And finally, I’ll be spreading the word about my own book, which will be published by Islandport Press this fall, and handing out some “reminders” designed to let readers know when they can get their hands on a copy. The book’s tentatively called “Evergreens” and is a collection of some of my favorite columns over the past 18 years or so. I look forward to telling you more about it in the days and months ahead.
See you at the show!
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke