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Boat show returns to DECC for 51st year

Two young archers practice their target shooting as part of a Pheasants Forever Youth Village exhibit, which will be part of the Duluth Boat, Sports, Travel and RV Show opening Wednesday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. In addition to archery shooting, youths will be able to test their skills at laser and sling-shot ranges and learn about safe hunting practices. Shamrock Productions photo

A Northland tradition returns this week as the 51st annual Duluth Boat, Sports, Travel & RV Show begins its five-day residency at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Wednesday.

"We have been at the DECC since they dug the hole in the ground," said Ron Murphy of Shamrock Productions, the organizer of the show, who has been involved since the beginning. "It's become an institution. Fifty years ago a family brought children, then they brought their children, and so on and so on."

The show runs through next Sunday and is again being held in conjunction with the Northland Outdoors Deer Classic, which will take place in the DECC's Lake Superior Ballroom.

Having celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, the boat show shows no signs of slowing down. This year brings back all the boats, ATVs, fishing gear and sporting equipment visitors expect, plus plenty of new exhibitors and activities.

One of the new offerings is the Pheasants Forever Youth Village, where kids will be able to test their skills in a safe archery zone, laser shooting gallery and indoor slingshot range — and learn about safe hunting practices.

The show also will include trout fishing, mounted animals, face painting, puppies and — as part of an endangered animal exhibit — a sloth bear. The sloth bear is native to India.

"These are animals people don't normally get to see, and now they do," Murphy said.

There will also be a variety of seminars to attend over the five-day event, covering topics such as deer processing tips, walleye fishing basics, and how to select a quality knife. All are included with admission.

New this year is one class that has Murphy especially excited — Marine Electronics University, offered by Lowrance Electronics. Lowrance is the maker of many popular depthfinders and will be offering a class in how to properly use them. The class requires an additional $25 fee, offset by a $25 gift certificate for Marine General Supply that each participant will receive.

"The folks from Lowrance just have a tremendous amount of knowledge," Murphy said. "You should sign up ahead of time; if you wait it may be full."

To reserve a spot, call Marine General at (218) 724-8833.

Beyond the latest in products and prototypes for the outdoor sports enthusiast, the boat show also offers a variety of entertainment. This year's musical act, Mountain Faith, described as an Americana and bluegrass act, made it to the semifinals of America's Got Talent in 2015.

"We keep it fresh with entertainment," Murphy said. "Even if you don't like country — Mountain Faith is just a fantastic act; they did remarkable on America's Got Talent."

Mountain Faith will perform at 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with additional performances at 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Their only performance on Sunday will be at 4 p.m.

Area hotels and businesses see a boost from the boat show. Jon Driscoll of Pier B Resort estimated that they started receiving reservations for the event last October.

"We have seen a good response," he said. "Much better than an average mid-winter week."

It is the first boat show since Pier B's opening last July, and Driscoll said they offer special rates for both exhibitors and guests of the show, noting that reservations are still coming in.

Murphy said the show aims to have wide-ranging appeal.

"There is something for everyone," he said. "That's what helped propel it through the years. There is a trust factor that has been built up. It's a community event."


If you go

The 51st annual Duluth Boat, Sports, Travel & RV Show runs from Wednesday through next Sunday at the DECC. Admission is $10 for adults 18 and older, $6 for youth ages 6-17, and children under 6 are free. Tickets are available at the DECC.

Hours for the show are:

• Wednesday, 5-10 p.m.

• Thursday, 5-10 p.m.

• Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

• Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

• Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, go to