July 20, 2019
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Young exhibitors leave their marks on Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s show

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Eri Martin weaves a pack basket in his apartment in Unity on Jan. 31, after returning from class at Unity College. Martin sells his handmade pack baskets under the business name Mountain Adventure Baskets.

Among the more than 100 exhibitors at the Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show are plenty of folks like me: Regulars who plan on spending three full days at the show each March, just like they’ve done for a decade or two or three.

But the vendors who add a little extra life to the annual rite of almost-spring are those who are a bit younger, less grizzled and newer to the outdoor expo game.

Over the course of more than 20 hours spent in the University of Maine’s New Balance Field House last weekend, I had the chance to talk with a few of those younger exhibitors, each of whom helped remind me why the show is so much fun.

First up was Eri Martin, a full-time student at Unity College who was displaying some of the products he produces through his business, Mountain Adventure Baskets. Martin is a friendly, bearded man who explained that he took a class that showed him how to make traditional pack baskets a few years back and has since turned that knowledge into a flourishing business.

The baskets are impressive and are subtly different from others you may have seen on the market. Back in February, my colleague Aislinn Sarnacki wrote a feature story about Martin that highlighted some of his cool creations, but this was my first chance to check out his handiwork.

I was impressed. Among the products that caught my eye were pack-basket-shaped beverage koozies, which he sold for $15 apiece at the show. I stopped by Sunday to show a friend the koozies, and Martin only had one display model left. He brought 40 to the show, he said, and sold out quickly. If you’re in the market for some cool Maine-themed gifts, do yourself a favor and check out Martin’s wares.

Over at the Annika Rod & Fly booth, I caught up with an impressive young fly tier, 14-year-old Noah Tibbetts, as he turned out a steady supply of “maple syrup” and “spunky” flies.

Tibbetts has had some health setbacks in his young life, but is keeping a positive attitude while trying to make things better for others. He was selling those flies to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, and through that effort and other fundraising projects, he has raised more than $40,000 during the past several years.

Well done.

Another young exhibitor was Rachel McMannus of Penquis Valley High School in Milo, who made the rounds during a lull in the action to solicit prize donations from those staffing other booths.

McMannus had a well-polished sales pitch, which I won’t try to replicate here, other than to say this: The school’s Key Club is staging the Schoodic Lake Charity Bass Fishing Tournament on July 14, and proceeds will help support the club’s international service partner, The Thirst Project, which helps provide fresh water wells in underdeveloped countries.

If you have a business and you can help support McMannus and her club with any kind of sponsorship, you can reach her at 20racmcmpvhs@gmail.com. And if you’re a bass angler looking for another competitive outlet, I hope you consider helping the Penquis students make their tourney a success. You can reach the event’s registration chair, Casey Dall, at cdall31@gmail.com

Last chance for trip entries

For the past several weeks, we’ve been accepting entries into our popular “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest, and once again this year, the response has been impressive.

If you’re interested in spending the day — Father’s Day, to be precise — fly fishing the East Outlet of the Kennebec River with Maine guide Dan Legere and me, your time is running out. We’ll be drawing the name of our lucky winner April 1, so it’s time to send in your final entry blanks or head over to our online entry portal and fill out the convenient form.

And if you’re waiting to see if we’re going to run the in-paper entry form again, I’m sorry to tell you that we’re not. Send in the forms you’ve collected soon.

Then, keep your fingers crossed, and maybe we’ll spend the day fishing together come June 16.

Let’s talk coyote

I’m in the process of working on a story about one of the state’s most misunderstood (and in some circles, most hated) animal: The coyote.

Some point out that coyotes, as top-end predators, are important parts of a healthy ecosystem. Others complain about the dietary habits of coyotes; most specifically, the fact that coyotes include deer on their menus. To some, the only good coyote is a dead one, and eliminating as many of the critters from the landscape as possible seems to be the goal.

Simply put, there are all kinds of opinions out there, and few Mainers seem to be on the fence about coyotes.

So, what do you think? I’d love to hear from BDN readers, and to share some of your opinions when the story is finished. Feel free to email me at the address below.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke

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