Ultimate Sport Show at DeVos Place

Show time! The Ultimate Sport Show—Grand Rapids is March 18-21

Big Buck Night and Ultimate Air Dogs return by popular demand!

Outdoor enthusiasts are "gearing up" for four days of fun and excitement when the Ultimate Sport Show—Grand Rapids returns to DeVos Place, 303 Monroe St. NW, March 18 to 21.

The show began in 1946. This year's 65th edition is shaping up to be the best ever for new outdoor gear, features, seminar leaders, fishing boats and specialty vendors, including many major company exhibits. 

"Yes, this is the Big One," said Adam Starr, show manager.  "Besides West Michigan, patrons come from throughout the state, including the Upper Peninsula.  Our surveys tell us the show also draws from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario."

With so many events on the outdoors show circuit, what is it about the Ultimate Sport Show that prompts attendees to mark their calendars months in advance?

"Stuff" of the Show: The 200,000 square-foot DeVos place will be loaded with more than 100 booths of fishing tackle, including one-of-a-kind vendors whose baits and lures are seen only once each year. Many manufacturers have reserved space for their new products and will have company experts on hand to explain features and answer questions with no pressure to buy.

The show has a reputation for educating the public as well as being a veritable supermarket of product choice and value for the show season's best buys.

West Michigan fishing boat dealers are bringing bass boats, walleye boats, pontoons, offshore trolling packages, river steelheading boats, canoes and kayaks.

Scores of outfitters, lodges, fishing and hunting guides, and family vacation destinations are in the show, along with many other exhibitors.

Seminars: More than 100 free hunting and fishing seminars will be held on four stages, including Lake Ultimate, the 110,000-gallon indoor lake with fully rigged boats from which fishing experts deliver real-time seminars. Fee-based weekend Super Clinics for walleye and trout/salmon are part of the lineup.  Mark Martin, Denny Geurink and Mark Romanack are among many Michigan experts with national reputations. 
Ed Spinazzola and Paul Morrow offer specialty seminars on making food plots for deer.  Bass pro Jonathan VanDam returns to Lake Ultimate to demonstrate his specialized fishing tactics.  Local fishing guides are among the many speakers.

Calling Competitions:  The Grand Valley Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will hose its annual Turkey Hunting Workshop from 10:00 a.m. to Noon on Saturday.  The workshop and the 15th Annual Grand Rapids Open Turkey Calling Competition, that evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., are both free with admission. 

Also on Saturday, the public is invited to compete and attend the 3rd Annual Great Lakes Duck & Goose Calling Competition, presented by the Allegan Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.  Amateur Division competition begins at 1:00 p.m., followed by Open Division competition about 3:00 p.m.  Registration and more details are at www.callingducks.com.  

Stage Show Features:  Between seminars, Lake Ultimate becomes a stage show.  Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Milt Wilcox will host Ultimate Air Dogs, the Big Air show of leaping Labrador retrievers and other athletic canines. Wilcox and Sparky, his black Lab named for the great Tigers manager, Sparky Anderson, will lead demonstrations in both distance jumping and extreme vertical leaping.  The public is invited to register their dogs at www.ultimateairdogs.net.
Big Buck Night West:  Celebrity hosts Jimmy Gretzinger and Jenny Olson will host “Big Buck Night West” on Friday at 7:00 p.m.  Special guest Tony Gates of WLAV-FM will help them interview successful deer hunters.  The cameras will be taping for future Michigan Out-of-Doors TV programs.
Special Features: Hundreds of professional mounts of birds, fish and game by members of the Michigan Taxidermist Association, which holds its annual convention during the show, will be on display at no charge for ticket-holders.

The Woodland Woodcarvers return by popular demand. Grand River Fly Tyers, Fish Cleaning Demonstrations by the Grand Rapids Steelheaders, and free Fly Casting Instruction by Glen Blackwood of the Great Lakes Flyfishing Co. are other popular features to return. 

Huge displays of antique and classic fishing tackle, vintage Coleman camping products, sporting collectibles and outboard motors and boats from days gone by are part of the show.  Patrons are encouraged to bring their own artifacts for free appraisal by experts. 

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department will teach an Off-Road Vehicle Safety Certification course on Saturday from Noon to 5:00 p.m.  There is no charge for the class, required of all youth under age 16 who wish to operate an ORV.  More information is available at www.accesskent.org.  After the class, students are offered free admission to the show, which is open until 9:00 p.m. that evening.

More Family Entertainment: Kids of all ages will enjoy plinking at the Pellet Shooting Range, tackling the 25-foot-high Rock Climb, catching a live rainbow from the Trout Pond, or going up against a 60-pound salmon on the Virtual Fishing Simulator. These hands-on events charge a nominal fee with proceeds donated to charities.

Veteran anglers from the Michigan B.A.S.S. Federated NATION will instruct youngsters how to use spinfishing gear.  Kids can bring their own equipment or use rods and reels provided by the clubs.  There is no charge for instruction or for the annual KidsCasting competition held on the weekend. 

Special Promotions:  Bring a sack of non-perishable food items (4 lbs. or 6 boxes/cans for the Tony Gates/MSAH Food Drive on Thursday, March 18 and get in free, that night only. 

Be among the first 500 attendees on Thursday and Friday and receive a $6.95 commemorative Dardevle fishing spoon from Eppinger Mfg. Co. in Dearborn.  On Saturday and Sunday, the first 500 patrons will receive a free fishing bobber from the Carlisle Float Company, also in Michigan. 

Show hours are Thursday, from 3:00 to 9:30; Friday, from 11:00 to 9:30; Saturday from 9:00 to 9:00; and Sunday from 10:00 to 5:00.  Admission is $9 for adults and $4 for children 6 to 14.  Kids 5 and under get in free. 

Discount coupons are available at downtown merchants, the Grand Rapids Press, and Wendy’s restaurants.