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U.P. Trappers Convention kicks off

Jordan Beck | Daily Press Attendees of the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo are pictured Friday.

ESCANABA — Attendance was strong for the 57th annual U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo’s first day Friday. The event, which is being held at the U.P. State Fairgrounds, will continue today.

“At 11:30 (a.m.), we were over 1,000 through the gate,” Convention Coordinator Roy Dahlgren said.

Participation in this year’s convention has been healthy in terms of vendors, as well.

“We’ve got 200-plus vendor tables,” Dahlgren said, adding this represented an increase of about 25 tables from Escanaba’s last regional trappers convention in 2017.

Many of the people in attendance at the convention Friday were from outside the area. Dahlgren said he had already spoken with attendees from Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and the Lower Peninsula Friday morning.

“It’s crazy, the amount of people that come up for the show,” he said.

White Cloud, Mich., resident Jack Barnhill, who attended the National Trappers Association Convention recently, said he felt the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo is on par with that event in terms of what it has to offer for trappers.

“For the trapping community, there’s something here for everybody,” he said.

Keith Belonga of Trout Lake, Mich., said he and his girlfriend, Rachel Browning, make a point of coming to the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo annually.

“We travel from over there to here for this event — it’s something that we look forward to when it comes around,” he said, noting they take the opportunity to “stock up” for trapping at the event each year.

One of the many businesses offering equipment and supplies for trappers at the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo is Yoopers Trapping Supplies. The business first came to the convention in 2010.

“It’s pretty cool — it’s always been really wonderful to see all the old trappers and listen to the stories,” owner Kim Martin said.

Gary Vadnais, Martin’s brother and owner of Beaver Creek Trapping Supply, said he and Martin focus on offering a wide range of products at their shared booth at the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo.

“We try to cover all the bases,” he said.

A variety of trap sizes, baits, lures and tools are available at Yoopers Trapping Supplies’ booth.

While trapping supplies are a major draw to the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo, U.P. Trappers Association Regional President John Gunville said this is not all the event has to offer.

“It’s not just a trappers’ convention,” he said.

Some of the vendors at this year’s convention are artists whose work focuses on the great outdoors — including Adrian Romero. In addition to his work as an artist, Romero has long been involved with trapping and was named the National Trappers Association’s Trapper of the Year – West for 2019.

Romero is selling art prints and apparel at his booth at the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo. As a resident of New Mexico, he said he has enjoyed the change of pace provided by visiting the Upper Peninsula.

“(It’s) whole different scenery from what I’m used to — definitely a lot more water,” he said.

Joe Goodman, a longtime contributor to the magazine “Fur-Fish-Game,” is selling prints, apparel and original drawings at the convention. Though he has attended national conventions in Escanaba before, he said 2019 marks his first time at a U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo.

“It’s one of the best-run and well-promoted events … that I’ve ever been a part of,” Goodman said.

The convention also features a building dedicated to arts and crafts.

Live demonstrations took place at the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo Friday and will continue today. Ed Schneider, owner of Kansas Trapline Products, gave a demonstration on coyote and bobcat trapping Friday morning.

Schneider said he appreciated attending the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo, as it allowed him to talk about a wider variety of animals and trapping techniques than he can discuss at other events. He also enjoyed the convention itself.

“You feel like you’re (at) a real trapping rendezvous of the old days,” he said.

Les Johnson, host of “Predator Quest,” gave a demonstration on predator hunting Friday; he will do another demonstration today. Johnson said he has enjoyed returning to the convention, having attended both regional and national trappers conventions in Escanaba in the past.

“I see a lot of familiar faces and recognize them year after year,” he said.

Gunville said Escanaba has been an ideal home for the U.P. Trappers Convention & Outdoor Expo.

“The community has been very supportive of the trappers,” he said.

The convention will continue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. There is a fee for admission, though children 12 and under can attend the event for free. For more information, including a schedule of demonstrations, visit uptrappers.com.

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