ESCANABA - We are in what many used to refer to as the dog days of summer. It's been hot and humid. It seems like summer activities are close to wrapping up and a lot of family focus is in preparation for school to start in just about a month.
The good news is that we had a reprieve from the heat. Temperatures and humidity last weekend dropped, allowing many to enjoy the outdoors.
Last weekend offered a lot of outdoors activity. One specific event included the annual UP Trappers Convention at the fairgrounds. It was to me the best of all the trapper's gatherings since I first started covering them a dozen years ago.
The only one to come close was nearly a decade ago, when the Michigan 4H State Youth Shooting Sport Archery Tournament took place at the same time, also on the fairgrounds, and helped attract a large crowd.
The two day event this year opened Friday morning and by noon had already seen over 500 visitors. As long as the doors were open, a constant flow of spectators (possibly exceeding 2,000) came to see what the trappers had to offer.
The MDNR Pocket Park was opened for kids fishing and the first 100 \were given a free Bay deNoc Lure Co., "Swedish Pimple" lure. The grounds were manned by volunteers, most of whom were members of various conservation clubs.
The trappers expanded their program beyond the fur handling and trapping demonstrations. There were demonstrations on beaver and otter skinning, fleshing and stretching of furs, with secrets of the craft from the UP's best trappers.
There were over 40 vendors who provided trapping supplies, and this year there were fur manufacturers, wood art products vendors, wool crafts, taxidermist displays all the way to jams, jellies and maple syrup.
What was most striking for me was seeing the amount of whole families in attendance. Moreover, it was moving to see how many kids and adults were in the market for supplies.
Some told me they had started trapping after last year's convention and were expanding their interests after finding out how great the sport of trapping is for recreation, and how much they all love learning about wildlife and habitat together.
The event also showcased the organization of the UP Trappers as they are being considered for hosting the National Trappers Association Convention in 2013. That would bring approximately 7,000 new visitors to the area.
Another event that took place Sunday was a Kid's Fishing Derby put on by the Bay deNoc Great Lakes Sports Fishermen. It ran from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Free food and refreshments were provided for participants and the event itself was also free of charge.
Adult supervision was required so it made for a great day of family fellowship. The fishermen also sponsor the prizes and man the derby with volunteers from the club. It was one of the largest crowds in the history of the event.
Kelly King from the BDN/GLSF chaired the event with help from several other members. While the club sponsored the food and most prizes, King extended a thank you to Jim Eby for donating additional tackle as prizes for the "Biggest Fish" category and "Sportsmanship Award".
There were two categories for the fishing derby, ages 8-and-under and 9-16. The top three finishers received prizes that included a new fishing rod and reel, tackle box with fishing tackle. Additional rod combinations were given to the special categories as well.
In the eight and under category: 3rd Place went to Nick Kolich, 2nd place to Robert Oliver and 1st place went to Kendra Bouchard. Kendra took honors for the big fish in her class as well.
In the 9-16 category: There was a tie for 3rd Place between Macy Carlson and Braden Sullivan. Sullivan also won the Sportsmanship Award. He successfully put back an undersized northern pike but then gave his lure to his younger sister in hopes she would latch onto a big fish and perhaps win. 2nd Place in this category went to Jackie Woodrich who also took honors for biggest fish, and Madison Kolich won 1st Place for overall total catch.
The next local kids fishing event is Aug. 14 in Gladstone, as the BDN/GLSF host the Annual Wal-Mart Bays Classic Walleye Tournament that will also feature a kids derby prior to the adult weigh-in. This event is also free to participants.
The Trappers will host a kids workshop the first weekend in February in Hermansville.
The real kick-of for fall (beyond football) will be Youth in the Outdoors and National Hunting and Fishing Day Sept. 24 to be held at the Great Lakes Sport and Recreation Club.
At least locally it appears the spark to recruit kids outdoors is rapidly turning to a glowing ember. We hope it continues to catch on.
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Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.