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Weatherby Award Acknowledges Texas Spurs Nationwide Wildlife Expos
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo has become a national model for educational efforts to promote wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation, a role which will be recognized at the expo volunteer barbeque on Saturday evening, Oct. 6 by board members from Weatherby Foundation International (WFI).
Within the past decade, a half dozen U.S. states have sent representatives to observe and learn from the Texas event, including Wyoming, Alabama, and Oklahoma. Several states have since started their own annual expos, bringing the total for 2007 to 16 nationwide.
“We are grateful to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for its work to help pioneer the expo concept as an educational event for youth and families,” said Craig Boddington, WFI board president. “Texas’ dedication, together with similar efforts in Wyoming, has been a guiding force in our resolve to foster the growth of expos nationwide."
Begun in 1992 as a tribute to the role of hunters in wildlife conservation, the Texas event has expanded over the years to include fishing, state parks, camping, birding, history, paddling, mountain biking and many other elements. This year’s event takes place Oct. 6-7, when once again TPWD’s Austin headquarters will be transformed into the site of America’s largest, free, family-oriented festival of the great outdoors. Last year, more than 35,000 visitors enjoyed Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo.
“A main reason Texas is the poster child for this effort is we integrate so many diverse elements,” said Ernie Gammage, TPWD Urban Outdoors Program director and Expo coordinator. “It’s not just a shooting show or a parks show or a wildlife or history show; it’s all that. The genius of our Expo is you get kids interested in kayaking out here, and they end up shooting. Vice versa, kids who come out to catch a fish may find an interest in Texas history, or birding, or any number of other things.”
Gammage says there are now expo-like festivals held across Texas every year now. One recent example is the Grapevine Main Street Days Outdoor Adventure in 2005. “Basically, for the 22nd year of this annual event, the Grapevine folks completely recast it as an outdoor adventure experience,” Gammage said.
On Oct. 6 at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo evening barbeque, foundation Vice Presidents Sean Duffy and Jim Blankenbaker will present a plaque recognizing TPWD for promoting the expo concept.
“Our mission is to educate the non-hunting public on the beneficial role of ethical sports hunting and its contribution to wildlife conservation,” Boddington said, “and helping expos grow has proven to be both a fitting and practical way to do this.” He gave this summary of WFI's current expo program activities:
- In 2008 the Foundation will provide grants and organizational support to outdoor expos scheduled in 18 states.
- As of 2007, more than a one-half million people, primarily youth and families, will have attended expos for which the foundation has helped organize and sponsor.
- By 2012 projections are that more than 30 states will hold outdoor expos with over one-half million participants designed to educate youth and families.
- To ensure expo growth nationwide the foundation has developed a comprehensive planning guide and funds an active workshop program. These are directed by , who retired in 2003 as education supervisor for Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and manager of the Wyoming Expo. Lockman co-authored the expo planning guide and has been instrumental in the success of WFI's expo program.
Weatherby Foundation International was established in 1988 in memory of Roy E. Weatherby, founder of Weatherby, Inc. More information about the foundation and its support of outdoor expo programs is on the Foundation Web site. Or, call the foundation at (307) 635-3865. The foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization.
On the Net:
- Weatherby Foundation: http://www.weatherby-foundation.org
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo: http://tpwd.texas.gov/expo
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