Sporting her brand new pink “Scream Queens” backpack and with a bit of leftover ice cream still on her chin, Breanna Muller, 7, of Ama was cruising around the Alario Center on Friday afternoon looking for a good time.
Muller’s parents had taken her and her sister, Rochelle, 6, to the second annual Southern Sportsman’s Festival and Expo on Friday, when kids under 16 got in free. And there were more than 100 exhibitors there, trying to lure Breanna (well, her parents really) with boats, ATVs, kayaks, the latest in fishing bait, very sharp knives, fancy pots, aroma therapy machines, art and a wide assortment of weaponry and outdoors gear.
But Breanna wanted the ice cream. And one of those cute little Sugar Bear critters — a pocket-sized marsupial indigenous to Australia sold as pets — of her very own. She also wanted to shoot a BB gun inside the big inflatable indoor shooting range set up by the giant sporting goods store, Cabela’s, but the line had gotten a little too long.
“We actually had to open up both lanes,” said Victoria Bourgeois, Cabela’s marketing manager, who was manning the range where kids could shoot either a BB gun or an Air Soft rifle at a target. “But our Daisy Air Soft range is always a big hit. It gives kids a safe and fun environment to go in their own little stall, with their own outfitter. We get kids who have never shot guns before and we get kids who come in and hit the bull’s-eye every time. And some adults even want to do it.”
Gavin Henninger, 8, and Grayson Henninger, 6, of Belle Chasse were some the lucky ones who did get to shoot in the indoor range, as well as the duck hunting simulator at the Ducks Unlimited Booth.
“The bird game was fun,” Grayson said.
Little Breanna had to settle for petting the really cute Sugar Bears and the pair of golden retrievers who will be performing some demonstrations throughout the weekend. At least her parents didn’t make her sit through an hour-long cooking demonstration like one squirmy little would-be outdoorsman, who looked like he would rather be doing anything else while holding his mom’s purse.
There was a lot for kids of all ages to do and see at the sprawling expo, which continues through Sunday. Kids braver than Breanna could try out a pair of Gyrospace rides, buy fudge, hot German nuts, or sample an assortment of dips with pretzels. A Hovercraft ride was set up by the pond out back, but a Friday afternoon rain shower had halted that action, as well as the outdoor human foosball game.
“We try to have fun stuff for the kids,” show manager Mike Zalaznik said. “Hunting and fishing and outdoor sports, it’s family time. It’s generally families that come out. We try to have something fun for them to do.”
The Expo continues 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. It’s Ducks Unlimited Day. A tailgate cook-off is scheduled, a contest benefitting local charity Café Hope. An assortment of hunting and fishing seminars will be held on the indoor stage, and live music will be performed on the outdoor stage. The retrievers are scheduled to go to work with demonstrations in and out of the pond, which also will host kayak and hovercraft demonstrations.
Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children under 16 (with adult) and military with ID. Children under 6 get in free. For more information, visit southernsportsmansfestival.com.