This year’s Expo expected to be biggest ever

Published 9:32 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

The hands-on, family-friendly Outdoor Alabama Expo returns to Oak Mountain State Park on Saturday, May 2 with outdoors-related activities for youngsters and adults alike.

The Expo will be open to the public, and the admission fee to the park, located just south of Birmingham near Pelham, will be waived for that day. A wide array of activities are planned—fishing, shooting sports, boating, nature trails, just to name a few, as well as a wide variety of exhibits and demonstrations.

“We hope to expose people to outdoors activities that they may not have been able to participate in before,” said Kim Nix, Director of Information and Education with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “We had Expos in 2003 and 2006. They were successful, but we believe this one will be bigger and better because we have more vendors, more activities and better advertising. We’re expecting several thousand people.”

Nix said Oak Mountain State Park makes an ideal venue because of its location and proximity to the Birmingham area with its urban audience.

“A lot of times, people who live in the city may not have the opportunity to experience things like archery, shooting, boating and those types of activities,” she said. “We especially want to focus on the kids. We’re looking at this as a family event. We hope the entire family will come because there is something for everybody.”

Activities come in numerous categories with the focus on hands-on and individual attention.

“For shooting, everyone goes through a short safety orientation before they do any shooting,” Nix said. “It’s one-on-one instruction to make sure everything is very safe. We’ll have archery, rifles, pellet guns and shotguns.

“For fishing, youth under 16 are actually going to be able to fish in the lake near the office. They are going to net off an area and stock it with fish so the kids are pretty much assured of catching something. That’s what makes it fun, especially for a kid, to catch something right away.”

Other fishing activities are split into freshwater and saltwater sections. On the freshwater side, other than the live fishing, there will be an aquarium and different species of freshwater fish on ice.

On the saltwater side, the Marine Resources Division will fill a saltwater tank with species caught on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“They’ll have starfish, shrimp, crabs and small sting rays that have been de-barbed,” Nix said. “They will all be safe to touch. That is one of the most popular exhibits at these types of events. This is something you don’t see often. To have it in the Birmingham area will be exciting for the kids and adults, too.”

Marine Police Division boating safety will headline the boating activities. Marine Police has built a personal watercraft (Sea-Doo, Wave Runner, Jet Ski) simulator.

“You get on it and it moves like you’re on the water,” Nix said. “That’s something brand new and we expect the line for that one is going to be pretty long.”

Retriever dogs and upland bird-pointing dogs will be among the demonstrations planned, which also include turkey calling, backyard wildlife enhancement, snake identification and birds of prey – the raptors from the 4-H Center in Columbiana.

“Put all that together with food vendors and retail vendors and we hope to have a festival-like atmosphere,” Nix said.