CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Promoters of the Mountain State's most popular outdoors show know a winning formula when they see one.
Perhaps that's why the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show seldom changes much from year to year. Regardless what the three-day exhibition has on its list of attractions, organizers know that roughly 15,000 cabin-fevered hunters and anglers will troop to the Charleston Civic Center in what can only be described as a midwinter pilgrimage.
Even when the fickle January weather fails to cooperate, hordes of men, women and children show up. Glen Jarrell, a spokesman for the West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association, the group that has put on the show for the past 27 years, said it takes some pretty extreme weather to put a dent in attendance.
"About the only thing that will affect it is a real bad ice storm," he said. He added, though, that he and his fellow Trophy Hunters are hoping for good weather during the upcoming Jan. 17-19 event.
Jarrell believes the show's carefully cultivated "family atmosphere" is what attracts so many attendees.
"There's something for everyone," he said. "Of course, the guys are mainly interested in looking at gear and talking with outfitters about hunting and fishing trips. The women do some of that too, but a lot of them are there to observe the things their menfolk gravitate toward, and they take notes about future gifts for their guys.
"There are a lot of things for kids to see and do, too. There are educational exhibits that teach about conservation and nature, hands-on exhibits where kids get to try their hands at archery or a virtual hunting simulator, and always there are vendors that cater to kids' tastes."
All of the vendor slots for this year's show sold out long ago. Jarrell said there are 350 booth slots on the Civic Center floor, and they've all been snapped up by some 240 vendors.
"As always, a bunch of the exhibitors will be outfitters," he explained. "We'll have hunting guides and outfitters from Africa, Canada, Alaska and several western states. People will be able to book hunts for African 'dangerous game' such as Cape buffalo or lion, or plains game such as antelope and wildebeest. They can also book hunts for Alaskan moose or grizzly bears, Rocky Mountain elk, Canadian black bears and any number of other game species."
Fishing outfitters are well represented too.
"We have them all the way from Canada, down through the Great Lakes and on into Florida. People will be able to book trips for everything from walleye and steelhead to inshore and offshore saltwater species."
Exhibitors won't be the only attractions. Jarrell said the show's big day, Saturday, will feature three hour-long presentations at the Civic Center Little Theater.
"At noon, the folks from the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center will do a show that features live birds of prey," he said. "That show is always popular, for kids and adults, both.