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Texas Parks & Wildlife Expo Celebrates 15 Years Oct. 7-8
AUSTIN, Texas — America’s largest free, family-oriented festival of the outdoors celebrates its 15 year anniversary at the Parks and Wildlife Headquarters in Austin on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7-8. The annual event that began as a tribute to hunting’s role in conservation in 1992 today includes fishing, shooting sports, state parks, Texas history, rock climbing, biking, birding, paddling and many other activities, all free to the public.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo emphasizes recreation and having fun, because we believe that’s the key to getting people involved in conserving our natural and cultural resources,” said Robert L. Cook, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which produces the Expo as a public service with the help of sponsors and conservation organizations. “If you’ve never tried these activities, it’s a great chance to see and do it all in a safe setting with expert guidance. In everything, you’ll find a message of stewardship, the idea that we all have role to play to safeguard our heritage.”
Several new activities will tempt visitors of all ages to Expo XV.
The Casting Kids activity in the Fishing and Aquatic area invites young people ages 7-to-14 to test their flipping, pitching and casting skills, learn about fishing, conservation and protection of the great outdoors and win prizes. Participants will also have a chance at competing for a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships and prizes to be given away nationwide. This new Expo activity is presented by the Texas B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, part of a new statewide youth outreach initiative the group launched this year in partnership with TPWD.
For the first time, the nationally-known nonprofit group Leave No Trace will teach Expo visitors the seven ethical principals of responsible outdoor use in the Camping and Outdoor Skills area. Leave No Trace principals include Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Others.
A companion activity for youngsters will take place in the Little Critter’s Corner area. P.E.A.K. (Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids) will introduce young children ages 6-to-12 to simple Leave No Trace principles.
Also new this year are presentations about outdoor equipment and clothing geared especially for women and people with smaller physical frames. Many items from kayaks to shotguns are now available tailored to women’s needs. These seminars will be presented by Academy Sports and Outdoors in the Main Tent.
For the serious angler, the new Strike Team presentation will offer tips and techniques for fishing in Texas and across the country. Berkley will present this activity with interactive demonstrations designed to show the angler the science and technology behind fishing products. Journals, knot cards and samples will be available.
The new Texas Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) tent in Camping, Outdoor Skills and RV area will explain this new state program to create or improve OHV venues that provide safe and legal family-oriented trail riding and camping opportunities in Texas. Enthusiasts can learn where to ride and hear about plans and proposals for new trails and OHV.
Nearby visitors will find the latest on recreational vehicle travel opportunities at Texas State Parks, including where to go and what’s offered at more than 70 state parks with RV facilities.
Also new this year, Expo Recycles! Through a new partnership with Keep Austin Beautiful, the event will recycle thousands of plastic beverage containers, with KAB providing receptacles and volunteers.
Longtime visitors may notice the Expo grounds look different this year. Notably, the arena for the popular sporting dog demonstrations and the live raptor Birds of Prey presentation by John Karger of Last Chance Forever has been relocated to the north side of the grounds near the Wet Zone paddling area. This allows organizers to consolidate and better present Wildlife and Law Enforcement exhibits and activities.
The Expo Friday night banquet from 6:30-10 p.m. Oct. 6* is moving off site for the first time in 15 years to the new Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort on Highway 71 east of Austin. This upscale Expo tradition raises money for conservation causes, featuring live music and a sumptuous Texas-style feast. In the past, it has been attended by top elected officials, sports and media celebrities and movers and shakers in the world of conservation. The banquet auction will feature items like a guided hunt with baseball legend Nolan Ryan, a lady’s diamond pendant and a New Zealand safari. This year’s banquet honors Joe McBride of Austin for his many years of contribution to the conservation cause. Tickets cost $100 in advance, $150 at the door. The banquet is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, contact Kelli Sellers with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation at (214) 720-1478, ext 205.
All events on Saturday and Sunday are free, as are water and air-conditioned shuttle bus service and parking. Although food may be brought in, coolers are discouraged because of the long walk to the grounds. Special shuttles on site will serve people with disabilities. Sorry, no pets allowed. Visitors are advised to bring cameras and sunscreen, and a little cash can be handy to buy food or outdoor gear and apparel.
Expo remains free to the public through the support of major sponsors such as Anheuser-Busch, Clear Channel Austin, HOLT CAT, Recuerdo, The Dow Chemical Company, Time Warner Cable, and Toyota. Other sponsors include Academy Sports & Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Careco Multimedia, Inc., ChevronTexaco, Farm Credit, Highland Mall, Arby's of Central Texas, Austin Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Boone & Crockett Club, Briley Manufacturing, CEMEX, Crosman Air Guns, Lower Colorado River Authority, McBride's, Shikar Safari Club International Foundation, Shoot Where You Look, Temple-Inland, and Weatherby Foundation International.
Out-of-towners looking for a place to stay can call the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at (512) 478-0098 for hotel and motel information. To make reservations at a Central Texas state park, call (512) 389-8900 or book online.
There is limited free parking near the grounds, but the best way to get to the Expo is to catch a free shuttle bus at Highland Mall (Foley’s side) near I-35 and Highway 290. If rain shuts down on-site parking, all visitors must catch shuttle buses, which run from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
For more information about Expo, including maps and directions, visit the TPWD Web site or call (800) 792-1112.
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