Midwest Huntfest sets up at Century II

Last year, Shawn Nielsen came up a few families short of having 10,000 visitors at the Midwest Huntfest.

“We still did pretty good,” said Nielsen. “The first year we had about 3,000, so we’re continuing to grow.”

This year’s event will be Friday through Sunday at Century II.

The avid hunter from Wichita credits his own increased marketing skills for some of the growth. Adding more to the increase in attendance are the show’s family appeal, more and better vendors and seminars, and happy customers from previous visits.

“We have so many people that came in on, say, Friday, then they come back on Saturday or Sunday,” said Nielsen. “They say it’s because there’s so much to see and do, especially with the seminars and demonstrations.”

He thinks this year’s biggest draw could be Dave Richardson and the West Texas Rattlesnake Show. Three times daily, Richardson will handle western diamondback rattlesnakes (a safe distance from the crowd) and educate the public on the biology of the snakes and what to do if a venomous snake is encountered in the wild.

“It’s amazing how good he is with the people,” said Nielsen. “We think it’s a really great thing to bring to Kansas for the first time.”

Other seminars include best ways to get a young hunting dog ready for the field, trophy care in the field, and advice from the Quality Deer Management Association.

An indoor 3-D archery tournament will run through the show. Saturday will have a shed antler contest.

Like the crowds, Nielsen said Huntfest’s number of vendors also has been growing annually.

He described this year’s gathering as “pretty diverse,” and that includes hunting and fishing trips, guns and ammo, a wide variety of hunting an fishing supplies. Nielsen said he’s been pleased how vendors selling non-traditional outdoor themed things like clothing and jewelry, have done in past years.

The Eagle’s Michael Pearce will be at the show, talking with the crowd and selling signed copies of his “Taste of the Kansas Outdoors Cookbook,” which also features about 150 of his best outdoors photos and stories. Books will be sold at a special show price of $15, tax included. Suggested retail is $19.95.

Nielsen said the number of door prizes and other giveaways has also increased, and totals about $40,000 in prizes this year.

“One of the neatest things is that we’re giving away a five-day Ontario black bear hunt,” said Nielsen. “To me, that would have to be the hunt of a lifetime for most people. We’re also giving away 30 hunting or fishing trips in Canada and Michigan and a lot of other outdoors prizes. It’s the most we’ve done. We just keep growing.”

Midwest Huntfest

When: Noon-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Century II

Admission: $10 adults, $9 seniors and military, $5 children 8-12, under 8 free with paid adult.