Sweet Bear Tooth

Emily Grace Newbold “feeds” a bear head a Tootsie Roll on Saturday while she attends the Truth and the Outdoors Wildlife Expo in the St. Clair High School gymnasium. The bear rug was part of the Bucky Mountain Products display and was one of more than 150 vendor booths at the expo. For additional pictures, see the online gallery posted on The Missourian's Website, www.emissiourian.com

On the day after the event was over, organizer Mark Bay was confident that the 2013 Truth and the Outdoors accomplished its mission to combine the truth about Jesus Christ with the love of the outdoors.

The three-day wildlife expo that took place on the St. Clair High School campus Friday through Sunday attracted a record crowd of 13,500 that got their fill of the hunting and fishing world as well as a taste of the Gospels.

“As far as I know, everyone had a great time,” Bay told The Missourian on Monday. “I’ve received nothing but good comments so far. It again was a great event where we got to share the love of the outdoors with the good news of Jesus Christ.”

More than 150 vendors packed the gymnasium and cafeteria areas of St. Clair High School, the junior high and Edgar Murray Elementary School. Vendors included big names like Coleman’s and Cabella’s as well as many smaller, local and area businesses and ministries.

Hands-on activities included making bows; archery, air rifle and BB-gun shoots; fishing; minnow racing; and a zip line. Shows and seminars focused on tricks of the hunting and fishing trade.

And, there was plenty of food to eat and information to gather. As far as food, Bay said six hogs were needed to produce enough pulled pork, 300 pounds of bratwurst was sold and an unknown amount of hamburgers, hot dogs and fish was purchased. In addition, volunteers baked hundreds of desserts and other side items.

“The food lines were always long,” Bay said. “All in all, things went very well. I really don’t it could have gone much better.”

Chilly conditions on Friday and overnight rains into Saturday did not deter people from attending. Bay said sometime late on the day on Saturday, the 2011 attendance mark of 10,200 was surpassed. A rainy Sunday may have kept numbers down that day, but more than 2,600 individuals still attended as the expo came to a close.

“We’re pleased with the numbers,” Bay said. “We had set an attendance goal of 15,000, but considering the weather and everything, we’re happy with the number of people.”

Truth and the Outdoors has been no stranger to inclement weather, however. Two years ago, a late-winter storm dumped a few inches of heavy, wet snow on attendees and vendors. Four years ago during the first event, a downpour produced several inches of rain.

“I really thought we had a steady flow of people, even on Sunday,” Bay said.

Truth and the Outdoors was started in 2009 and is sponsored through the Franklin County Baptist Association. It takes place every other year. This year, Bay said, hundreds of volunteers assisted on one, two or all three days or donated their time, money or both in other ways.

“The volunteers make this possible,” Bay said. “God provides. Every single volunteer is appreciated.”

Seminars and shows featured Branson entertainer Travis Loewen and his 2,200-pound longhorn steer; Brian Utecht, national director for the Cross Trail Outfitters ministry, speaking about whitetail deer hunting; brothers Mike and Dan Witt sharing their personal story of losing their father in a hunting accident as well as their faith in God; fishing expert Chris Morrow talking about catfish; Pond Pro Tim Shannon discussing his craft and his faith; Roger Sigler explaining his method of training antler dogs; and Marty Holmes talking about the Mule Deer Foundation.

“There was something for everyone,” Bay said. “The seminars were well-attended. Some of them were standing room only.”

All of the seminars and shows, minus the longhorn, took place in the SCHS auditorium. A Kids Zone was set up in the SCJHS cafeteria.

Bay said there were no negative incidents of any kind, including accidents, fights or injuries. He said shuttle buses did a good job of transporting people to and from the site to the various parking areas throughout St. Clair.

Bay said he and other members of the TATO executive committee will try to take a little time to relax and reflect on this year’s event before the planning begins for 2015. He said boxes of comments cards were turned in, and every one of them will be read to see how the event can be improved.

“We’re always looking for ways to make this better,” he said. “But I thought it was phenomenal this year. We will start planning for the next one very soon, and we will work on making it even better than this one.”