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Booths at winter sport shows, such as this one belonging to Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock and Marina Services in Arkansas, offer outdoors enthusiasts a chance to plan future adventures.

By Brandon Butler

It’s show season.

All across the country, boat, sport and travel shows are kicking off with the intention of introducing outdoors enthusiasts to people, places and products that can enrich pursuits of fish and game.

None are larger or offer more excitement than the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show taking place Feb. 16 to 25 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Growing up in Northwest Indiana, Grandpa always took me to the Chicago Sports Show and a much smaller one in Valparaiso. My parents would allow me to take a day off from school because grandpa refused to fight the weekend crowds.

We browsed the aisles, always buying lures and beef jerky. We collected enough marketing materials about lodges and fishing guides to fill a grocery bag.

Back at home, I’d spend hours upon hours sorting through the brochures I’d collected, dreaming about one day being able to visit such amazing destinations.

The older I have become, the sweeter these memories of trips to the sport shows with Grandpa are. He’s been gone 14 years now, but I don’t even have to close my eyes to see the old man walking those aisles in all his glory.

Over the years, I have built great relationships with lodge owners and their staff that I have met at the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show.

Every kid is excited to see the slab crappie on ice in the coolers Blue Bank Resort keeps in their booth. Having fished out of Blue Bank many times now, Billy Blakely has become a guy I hop in a boat with every year. Bull Shoals Boat Dock and Marina is a place my uncle first took my cousins and I over 20 years ago after he booked a houseboat trip at the boat show. Now Kevin Eastwold is a dear friend.

I always dreamed of fishing Lake Erie, so one show I booked a trip with Sea Breeze Charters. Captain Bob Witt put me on a 9-pound walleye that hangs on my office wall.

The Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show features more than 600 exhibitors, and the two special weekends of the event are highlighted by shows running in conjunction with the Boat, Sport, and Travel Show. The 21st annual Indiana Deer, Turkey and Waterfowl Exposition runs Feb. 22 to 25, and the 27th annual Indiana Motorcycle Exposition runs Feb. 16 to 18.

Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and older, $8 for children 6 to 12 and children 5 and younger are free. A two-day pass is $22.

It’s the energy found in the aisles of these shows that make them so appealing to me. I love seeing excited faces and kids scurrying about. Walking these aisles takes me back to happy childhood days.

I will be attending a number of sport shows this spring in hopes of coming away with some new information, great contacts and a few good deals.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at djsports@dailyjournal.net.