Texas Parks & Wildlife Expo Offers Free Family Fun Oct. 2-3

Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov

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AUSTIN, Texas — America’s largest free, family-oriented festival of the outdoors takes place here the weekend of Oct. 2-3. The 13th annual Texas Parks & Wildlife Expo will allow tens of thousands of visitors to try fishing, shooting, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing and more, all at no cost.

The Expo began in 1992 as a tribute to the role of hunters in wildlife conservation, and it still promotes that tradition as a central focus. Today, it includes fishing, state parks, Texas history and almost everything else in the world of natural and cultural resource conservation and recreation. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department produces the event, which remains free to the public through sponsor support.

This year, organizers are putting out a special statewide welcome.

“It’s your outdoors, and this is your outdoors festival,— said Ernie Gammage, TPWD Urban Outdoors Program leader. “We put this event on as a free public service. From Brownsville to Beaumont, from Amarillo to Aransas Pass, whether you’re in the next county over or halfway across the state, come on down. If you don’t know anything about paddling or shooting or fishing or climbing, not a problem—this is your free chance to try it all.—

Photography is a major new activity this year at Expo. From the basics to high-end, visitors will have a chance to improve their photography and try out new gear. They can learn from the masters in daily seminars with renowned wildlife and landscape photographer Wyman Meinzer, who was named State Photographer by the Texas Legislature, and Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine staff photographer Earl Nottingham. Photography activities will be located near a beautiful wetlands area, where visitors can take and print digital photos using a variety of equipment. Lenses, video equipment, printers and binoculars will also be on hand to try, provided by Canon, sponsor of the activity.

Another new activity at Expo is bowfishing, one of the fastest growing sports in the country, in which anglers combine a bow and arrow with a fishing reel. At Expo, kids and adults can try their hands at shooting submerged three-dimensional fish targets from the bow of an airboat.

The popular “Design with Nature— area continues to expand this year, with exhibits and demonstrations about sustainable design and alternative energy, including things people can do at home and work.

Just in time for hunting season, the Expo has hunter safety information and opportunities for visitors to try out their crossbow, archery and firearm skills. There are programs for people of any skill level. All participants must first attend the short Shooting Safety Orientation at the Expo, which imparts safe and ethical practices.

Those who prefer the water in the Texas heat may check out the fishing and aquatic events. Diverse fish and marine organisms will be on site for viewing. Fishing education programs can teach the hook and line-challenged how to catch that trophy fish. There’s also a water safety program and an 8,100 square-foot tank aptly named “The Wet Zone— where Expo visitors can try kayaking.

After cooling off, there are booths to visit and learn about State Parks, archaeology, camping and outdoor skills. There will also be chances to win fishing starter kids from Academy Sports & Outdoors, sponsor of the Family Fishing Celebration promotion. Visitors can try rock climbing, mountain biking and more. Living history comes alive as participants in period costume come from state parks across Texas to showcase life on the frontier.

Wildlife activities include scheduled shows where visitors can see live birds of prey and sporting dog demonstrations. “Settlers Prairie,— a reproduction of the 19th century Blackland Prairie, will give visitors a chance to experience the state’s wildlife history and native species.

Expo guests should also see the Law Enforcement exhibits to meet game wardens, look at confiscated illegal hunting and fishing equipment, and learn a little more about the law of the land. The ever popular “Whodunnit— activity allows visitors to play the roles of game wardens, trying to spot the violations committed when wardens pose as lawbreakers in a mock hunting camp.

All events are free, as are water and air-conditioned shuttle service and parking. Although food may be brought in, coolers are discouraged because of the long walk to the fair grounds. There will be special shuttle service within the fair grounds for people with disabilities. And sorry, no pets allowed. Fido might scare the wild animals or be scared by the noise. Visitors need only bring cameras and sunscreen — a little cash can be handy to buy food or outdoor gear and apparel.

Major Expo sponsors this year include Anheuser-Busch, Toyota, Dow Chemical Company, La Invasora radio, Canon, HOLT CAT and Clear Channel radio in Austin. Other sponsors include Academy Sports and Outdoors, Mossy Oak Apparel Company, Winchester Ammunition, ChevronTexaco, Careco Multimedia, Inc., Sportsman’s Warehouse, Weyerhaeuser, Weatherby Foundation International, Boone & Crockett Club, Gary Grant Sales, Inc., Omni Austin Hotel-Southpark, Shikar Safari Club International Foundation, Arby’s of Central Texas, National Shooting Sports Foundation, CEMEX and Austin Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

Out of towners looking for a place to stay during Expo 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 on-line (http://tpwd.texas.gov/park/admin/res/).

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 Nelson Field at Reagan High School on U.S. 290 at Berkman Drive, just two miles east of I-35. Buses run from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.

For more information about Expo, including maps and directions, visit the Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/expo/) or call (800) 792-1112.