Early spring in Anchorage brings about the annual Great Alaska Sportsman Show in the Sullivan Arena and next door Ben Boeke ice arenas. Along with the indoor exhibits, RV’s and boats line up outside alongside the sidewalk next to the arenas. People come from all over Alaska to attend the show, but total yearly numbers tend to vary depending on the weather. If people can’t see their lawns because they are still buried in snow they have no yardwork to do so more go to the show. Those who come Thursday or Friday can get a weekend pass and attend the show every day for less than the price of two daily tickets.
I’ve just been there twice with a number of years in between. The first time snow lingered about, but the roads had all been plowed and stayed clear. The second time it snowed a foot the day we got there so paying extra for studded tires on the rental car seemed like a good idea for anyone who wanted to live. It snowed a bit more the next day, but by the last day it had started to melt with daytime puddles turning to nighttime ice. Parking lots never got plowed so the studded tires came in handy there the whole time through. As did snow boots for getting out of the car.
Inside the show countless booths sell everything from fishing tackle or hunting gear to outdoor clothes, boots, and food products. There were also random things like bamboo sheets and travel sized clothes steamers that remove the wrinkles faster than ironing. The bamboo sheet guy sold out so those were pretty popular. Besides booths selling food to eat at the show, there were also booths with prepared food products to take home. Some were the sort you take on pack trips, others things like spices or jams to use at home. Lots of other things could be found there as well. People could book all manner of trips in Alaska. Glacier cruises, hunting or fishing trips, and river rafting were all among the choices to be found at various booths. Want a log home or picnic table? You could find people to build those there too. Other offerings included specialty hand lotions, kayaks and stand up paddle boards, and a variety of small boats. Tractors to buy or scheduling work done by tractors were among the options as well. One booth even gave massages right there at the show. Over in the Ben Boeke ice arena, about half of one arena was filled with all manner of big Alaskan toys. Mainly ATV’s of all shapes and sizes.
There’s a lot more to the show than just things to buy. Each day a variety of different speakers had lectures on a myriad of different topics on the 4 stages in the seats above the main arena. Besides a variety of talks on fishing and hunting, they also had speakers on kayaking, boating safety & survival, stand-up paddling, satellite communications, log homes, and even a demonstration on how to make a bowl out of a tree burl. The show includes activities for adults as well as for children. They had an archery range, kid’s trout fishing pond, and a bird treatment and learning center with live birds. They also had an air rifle range and interactive laser shooting range. The fly-casting pond offered hands on clinics.
Mornings tend to be pretty busy with lines of people waiting to get in as soon as the door opens. Evenings on the other hand are pretty slow. Most of the crowd seems to head home for dinner around 5 or 6 so anyone who stays later can wander freely, uninhibited by the crowds that make getting from one side of the arena to the other a challenge during the busiest parts of the day. Of course anyone not from close enough to Anchorage to drive there and back in a day needs somewhere to stay during the course of the show. Anchorage has quite a lot of hotels. The best price we found last year was at the Clarion Suites Downtown. You don’t usually expect an all-suite hotel to have the best rates around, but sometimes things work out.
The room was huge with a living room area with a door that could close it off from the bedroom part. It didn’t have a full kitchen, but did have a refrigerator, sink, coffee pot, and microwave. Both the bedroom, which had two beds, and the living room had TV’s. The bathroom had a full sized bathtub with a shower. Perhaps the low price was because some things like the tile in the bathroom looked a bit worn and the elevator sounded a bit creaky, but for anyone not too snobby to overlook a few things it’s a great deal. Free breakfast is included, and came with lots of choices. They had eggs, bacon, sausage, muffins or danishes, make your own toast or English muffins, juice, tea, coffee, and make your own waffles. The hotel also had a small gym and indoor pool and hot tub. The pool and hot tub were great except when they were closed for maintenance, which happened a couple times while we were there.
It’s spring again and nearly time for The Great Alaska Sportsman Show. My husband is always there sharing a booth with Alaska Angler. Their side has outdoor books, our side has fishing tackle under banners for Brite Bite and Halibut.net. You can find most of our products at SquidLures.com, but I made some special Brite Bite leaders for the show that aren’t available anywhere else. If you’re in Anchorage for the show you might find our booth. It’s number 40 by the northwest main entrance of the Sullivan Arena. You could even catch a seminar from John on one of the show’s stages. This year’s show runs from April 5-8.