We’re excited to celebrate our outdoor heritage


Outdoor Weekend #34 was canceled due to COVID-19. We’re back though with Outdoor Weekend #35 and we’re back in a big way!

Of course, we understood the seriousness of COVID-19 and knew safety from this dreadful and deadly pandemic was most important. It was just a hard pill to swallow.

We’re newspaper people, not show promoters, so the learning curve has been steep from time to time. But we did learn our visitors liked to chat first hand with experts, and see, touch and feel the outdoors experience.

It’s hard not to reminisce about those early days. It is such a big part of my life and everyone else here at Woods-N-Water News.

The planning for the very first Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend took only a couple of months, if that. Today it’s nearly a year around job.

The first Outdoor Weekend had a dozen or so exhibitors. Enough people attended to make it worth our exhibitors’ time.

Now, 35 years have passed and the Outdoor Weekend draws several thousand visitors each year and over 250 exhibitors. The first 15 years we used a small portion of the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds; today we use it all and spill over into the streets.

New this year is the axe throwing mobile unit, Native-Axe Throwing from Midland invites you to test your skills.

Early on we booked the most popular outdoor personalities from the mid-’80s, Jerry Chippetta, Howard Shelley and Bob Gardner from Michigan Outdoors TV to name a few. You could walk up to the Free Press’s outdoor writer Dave Richey and ask him a question. Or Dave’s brother George who was the state’s top antique lure expert. Tom Huggler, a popular outdoor writer, author and photographer was always there.

Fred Trost, the outspoken former Michigan Outdoors TV host, visited as did his friend Bill Yoder. Bill would bring live deer, Arctic fox and bobcats for visitors to see and touch. Bob Sawmiller brought black bears, grizzly bears, cougars and wolves; what a sight.

On several occasions and again this year we have Alabama’s Byron Ferguson performing his incredible archery skills. Byron could and did shoot an asprin out of mid-air. Always a highlight were Michigan traditional archery legends, Norm Blaker and Ron LaClair. Norm often camped at the fairgrounds with the frontier and civil war encampments.

Let’s not forget the wonderful folklore and dance of Native American Reg Pettibone and his family. Thousands of kids of all ages have walked away with a sense of awe on their faces.

As the years went on we had visits from Jimmy Gretzinger and Jenny Olsen from Michigan Outdoors TV who did a few shows from the Outdoor Weekend.

Regular seminar speakers over the years have been Richard P. Smith, Fred and Greg Abbas, Tony LaPratt and Mr. Food Plot himself, Ed Spinazzola to name a few.

We’ve got some outstanding exhibitors as well, like Ray Clemens (Ray C’s Sports Center) and Dale Chapman (Chapman’s Sports Center) as two who have exhibited in every one of our Outdoor Weekends.

Other people who have played key roles in the Outdoor Weekends’ success are Bob and Dave Zgnilec (Lumberjack Shack) eXmark Power Equipment, Novak’s Equipment & Supply and Jim Adams of Freeway Sports Center. Please remember with the supply chain of products in shambles this year, due to COVID, selections of ATVs, boats and other products will be limited.

The Outdoor Weekend just wouldn’t be the Outdoor Weekend without our Puppy Tent, Chili Cook-Off Contest, a strong line-up of seminars, the Ultimate Air Dogs competition, hundreds of exhibitors, the frontier and civil war encampments, and an atmosphere of celebrating our outdoor heritage.

Popular attractions remain like Steve Francis, owner of Country Smoke House, who will again offer his demonstration of butchering and processing your whitetail. Randy’s Hunting Center is back. He is billing as a Garage Sale for guns. There will also be the talented chainsaw carvers, impressing show-goers with their art. And much of it is for sale as well.

Ron Foss will return this year without his beloved twin brother, Don, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last year. A wonderful man, veteran and avid outdoorsman will be missed by all here at Woods-N-Water News. Ron and Don have a display of locked antlers unlike anything you’ve seen before. From moose to whitetails, it’s something you won’t want to miss. We all will certainly miss the humor, stories and smiles of Don. It won’t be the same without him, but we’re confident Ron will guide you through a tremendous display he and his brother have shown in years past.

There will be dog training by famed trainer and author Len Jenkins again this year. Terry McBurney will be on hand again to talk with you about antique fishing gear and unique and more.

There will be a climbing wall, and educational displays. By the way, remember kids age 12 and under get in free. Plus, the kids get a chance to get their picture taken with Outdoor Weekend mascot, “Bucky.”

Have you ever thought you’d like to toss an axe? Well, it’s the rage these days and we have asked the Native-Axe Throwing Co. to show us how it’s done. Ayo Akindona of Midland will be bringing his specially designed trailer to allow showgoers an opportunity to test their axe throwing skills. As their webpage says, they offer the ultimate entertainment experience — combining the excitement of an amusement park with the familiarity of your backyard. They bring the axe-citement to you! They provide a safe, fun-filled environment, and a lively atmosphere.

So mark your calendar to attend the 35th Outdoor Weekend, September 10, 11 and 12, held at the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds in Imlay City. The show opens Friday, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. till close at 5 p.m.

The entire Woods-N-Water News staff has worked long, hard hours to make it something you’ll enjoy. And we are so pleased we are able to bring it to you this year.

Visit us at outdoorweekend.net.