Miss-Lou goes wild

Published 12:27 am Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vidalia — Members of Highland Baptist Church in Vidalia, along with hundreds of other Miss-Lou residents, will flock to the Vidalia Conference Center Sept. 15 for the fifth annual Highland Wildlife Expo.

This year’s event will feature approximately 30 booths, all of which are related to outdoors, hunting or fishing, team leader Bruce McCall said.

“Our goals are to provide a fun, family-oriented event that’s free to the community,” McCall said. “A lot of folks might not come to a traditional Sunday morning service, so this can still be a good opportunity to reach out to those people.”

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McCall said the success of the event caused a change in venue of last year’s expo, and he expects even more people this year.

“We had it at the church the first three years, and the very first year we had 225 people,” he said. “It grew steadily, and after three years we had over 500 people. We could no longer have it at the church. The City of Vidalia has been super, and they work with us in every way possible.

“We had over 1,000 participate last year, and we are expecting that many or more (this year).”

McCall said even though the event is community based, they still receive guests from out of town.

“We get folks from all over,” he said. “A group from Jackson came last year, and there has been people from Vicksburg, Woodville, Baton Rouge, McComb and Brookhaven.”

McCall said the entire event is free of charge, and there will be something to see for everyone in the family.

“It is a come-and-go type of event, and everything is free,” he said. “The big areas of emphasis and interest are the booths where you can see all kinds of crafts and hunting and fishing related things, anywhere from vendors that have camouflage, bows or guns to crafts where guys make knives and arrows.”

McCall said dinner and drinks are also free at the event, and they usually serve jambalaya or cowboy stew.

McCall said the door prizes given away at the expo are part of the reason more people continue to show up for the event.

“Last year we gave away $25,000 worth of door prizes,” he said.

McCall said this year that will give away six to eight grand prizes that include hunting trips, a Swamp Buggy ATV and a Beretta Extrema shotgun.

The event will feature three guest speakers including a local game warden who will provide this year’s hunting information and take questions, Mike Mayfield from Realtree, who will show off some new hunting products, and Jimmy Sites from the TV show Spiritual Outdoor Adventure who will be the feature speaker, McCall said.

McCall said there would be a special section devoted to children’s activities.

“They have their own program and special entertainment emphasized around what kids like to look at, things like looking at live snakes, iguanas and last year we had a bee hive. They also have stories around an Indian camp fire and crafts,” he said.

McCall said he is looking forward to this year’s expo.

“I’m really excited and looking to grow from last year,” he said. “Maybe we’ll get over 1,200. We are the only ones in the area (that still do this). There have been other expos for wildlife, hunting and fishing, but they have gone away over time. Ours is the only one in the area now, there isn’t anything like this anymore.

“I’m excited about the fact that it’s doing what we wanted it to do by being a fun, wholesome family event through a church brotherhood, so people can see we care about the community.”

McCall said he hopes that events like this will bring the church back to the forefront in the community.

“We feel like if you go back a couple of decades the community was centered around the church. We, as a society, have lost that in Highland and our other sister churches, and we’re trying to work hard to get it back to center around the church.”

The expo begins at 6 p.m. at the convention center.