The Great American Outdoors Show isn’t only for hunters, anglers and archers.
From entertainment in the large arena to booths nestled among halls filled with guns and fishing rods, hikers, bicyclists and others with a different take on the outdoors can find plenty to see at the show, which started Saturday and runs through Sunday.
Tre, a three-legged yellow lab, won over the crowd even before he took a flying leap into the pool at the Dock Dogs competition in the Farm Show Complex’s Large Arena. Kimmy Racine, of Holtwood, Pennsylvania, said the 2-year-old took to the competition right from the beginning, despite a difficult start to life.
Tre was born via C-section, and was stuck in the birth canal, which compromised his front leg.
“The breeder was going to put him down because he couldn’t sell him, so I asked him to surrender so I could bottle feed him,” Racine said.
Now, he trains for the Dock Dogs competitions in an inground pool. At the events, owners sign their dogs up to compete in various classes. Some contests measure the distance the dog jumps when he leaps from the dock, others measure height or the speed with which the dog retrieves the toy the owner throws into the pool.
The event is popular at the show with the audience filling about a quarter of the stands at any given time, Racine said.
Speaking over the noise of people testing duck calls, Scott Kocevar of In Gear Cycling and Fitness of Hummelstown said the show is a perfect fit for them with their assortment of pedal-assist bicycles, kayaks, coolers, regular pedal bikes, cups and more.
“Because we’re a family-owned business and we’re not just dedicated to hunting or anything, we’re a true outdoor business,” he said.
The pedal-assist bikes in particular have been popular with the market seeing a more than 140 percent increase in sales over the previous year. The ones on display at the show can pull more than 500 pounds in a trailer so it’s good for camping or hunting, but it can also be ridden for daily use. More of the bikes are being sold to “serious, hard core riders” than to retirees and people who haven’t ridden bikes in awhile, as Kocevar had originally expected.
“That’s the fastest growing segment of the bicycle industry,” he said.
For other vendors, shows like the Great American Outdoors show are vital to their businesses. Each year, Tonya Thompson and her husband, Andy, make the trek to Harrisburg from Vienna, Georgia, home of their jewelry business, Spent Rounds Designs.
Thompson said the business started eight years ago when her husband caught sight of a pair of earrings her daughter was wearing. As a hunter and gun enthusiast, he had a sudden inspiration.
“His eyes were drawn to her earrings, and the diameter of the top part of her earring reminded him of a 12-gauge shotgun shell,” Thompson said.
The couple started designing an array of jewelry from earrings to rings, necklaces, leather wallets and bracelets, including one that is named after country music star Brantley Gilbert. Thompson said he wears it in all of his concerts and music videos.
All of the jewelry is designed with spent ammunition.
“At the beginning, we were shooting it all and having a great time,” Thompson said.
Soon, the business grew too much to be providing their own raw material. The company connected with a plantation in south Georgia that collects all the rounds from their various hunts, and the Thompsons purchase the rounds from them.
Retail shows now account for 90 percent of their business, and the outdoors show is the biggest of them all.
“This is the largest retail show that we do every year,” Thompson said.
Along with businesses that reach the outdoors crowd, nonprofits choose the venue to bring awareness of issues to the crowds expected at the nine-day event.
Thomas Knapp manned a booth for Mission 22, an organization that is working to reduce the number of veterans who commit suicide each day. Currently, that number is 22.
“By bringing awareness and education, we hope to bring that down to zero,” Knapp said.
The outdoors show brings awareness of the issue to a crowd that is already sympathetic to his cause.
“These environments tend to be very pro-military, pro-police, pro-first responders. A lot of people don’t know we are losing 22 a day,” he said. “Hopefully, they go home and reach out to one person and save a life.”
The organization’s education component is online and includes free programs for veterans, as well as assistance for family members of veterans. Knapp said the organization is looking for more Brazilian Jiu Jitsu studios to offer classes for veterans.
“They have one workout a week for vets only. They show up, they get the camaraderie, they get a workout and they get to talk and have a bunch of other people understand them,” he said.
Along with Mission 22, Knapp is representing the Code 9 Project at the show. That organization is much like Mission 22, but is designed for first responders. Having served in the Marine Corps for 17 years and as a police officer for 11 years, Knapp knows the challenges they face as he, too, “hit the wall” and faced a crisis.
“I survived. I’m alive, and now this is kind of part of my therapy to be talking about it with others. It’s something I’m passionate about,” he said.
Mechanicsburg Borough Council conditionally approved a land development plan on Tuesday night for the Mechanicsburg Area School District’s Kindergarten Academy expansion and renovation project.
The school district plans to renovate the 55-year-old building on Filbert Street and add a classroom wing to accommodate steadily growing enrollment in the district. A second floor built over the new classroom wing will house the district’s administration offices.
The borough’s planning commission recommended the plan for approval, borough engineer Greg Rogalski told borough council members. Although the plan still carries “a few outstanding comments,” Rogalski said he doesn’t consider any of the issues to be major, with most pertaining to stormwater management.
“Most of the things have been worked out because the plan has been presented three times to the planning commission,” Rogalski said.
The borough council also unanimously accepted five waiver requests from the school district for the project. Waivers range from regulations for concrete pipes and collars to crediting existing vegetation toward landscape requirements.
The Mechanicsburg Area School Board is expected to approve contractor bids for the Kindergarten Academy project soon, with construction beginning in the spring. Building occupancy is planned for fall 2019.
In a related matter, borough council members directed borough manager Roger Ciercierski to deny a request by the school district to reduce building permit fees for the Kindergarten Academy project. Ciercierski said the request from district officials was addressed to him, but he wanted council members’ input “because I didn’t feel comfortable making this decision on my own.”
“The way fees are set up and the way the state collects it is pretty standard,” Ciercierski said.
Borough council president Rodney Whitcomb said he “didn’t want to set a precedent” by accepting the request. “I’m not in favor of lowering the fees. No one in this area lowers fees for anyone,” he said.
Despite nixing the request, Ciercierski said he wants the borough to partner with the school district on other projects, such as drainage work on Broad Street. “There’s plenty of other opportunities for us to work together,” he said.
For building permits, the borough charges $50 against the first $1,000 of project costs, then $10 per each additional $1,000. Ciercierski said this calculates to roughly 1 percent of total project costs, but the district also will shoulder review and inspection fees and other related costs down the road.
The school district has listed a maximum cost of $17,048,904 for the Kindergarten Academy project. Of that, just over $10 million is allotted for new construction. The remainder is expected to go toward renovations, site work, financing and other related costs.
Also on Tuesday, the borough council accepted an agreement with the school district for a construction easement for a stormwater basin in Koser Park. The borough is giving the school district “a small portion” of the land for the district to construct a drainage basin, Rogalski said. Since the stormwater system will benefit the Kindergarten Academy, it is being built at the district’s expense.
It looks like Groundhog Day for the nation’s flu report: It’s gotten worse and there are weeks of suffering ahead.
The government’s report out Friday showed the flu season continued to intensify last week.
One of every 14 visits to doctors and clinics were for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That’s the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009. The last week of January, 42 states reported high patient traffic for the flu, up from 39.
Hospital stays because of the flu also increased.
Experts had thought this season might be bad, but its intensity has surprised most everyone.
“It’s been the busiest I can remember for a long time,” said Dr. Doug Olson, an ER doctor at Northside Hospital Forsyth, in Cumming, Georgia. Another hospital in the Atlanta area this week set up a mobile ER outside to handle flu cases.
The heavy flu season has also put a strain in places on some medical supplies, including IV bags, and flu medicine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tally shows hospitalization rates surged past the winter of 2014-15, when the vaccine was a poor match to the main bug.
So far, however, deaths this season from the flu and flu-related pneumonia have lagged a little behind some recent bad seasons. There are as many as 56,000 deaths connected to the flu during a bad year.
The flu usually peaks in February. This season had an early start, and health officials initially thought it would also have an early peak. But so far it hasn’t worked out that way.
And there are some signs the flu season will continue to get worse. The CDC’s forecast though wasn’t quite as precise as Punxsutawney Phil’s; the groundhog “predicted” six more weeks of winter on Friday.
As for the flu: “There may be many weeks left for this season,” the CDC’s Dr. Dan Jernigan said.
Some good news: Illnesses seem to be easing a bit on the West Coast. Oregon joined Hawaii last week as the only states where flu wasn’t widespread. Friday’s report covers the week ending Jan. 27.
In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older. This season’s vaccine targets the strains that are making Americans sick, including the key H3N2 virus. How well it worked won’t be known until later this month. An early report from Canada for the same flu shot shows protection against that bug has been poor, just 17 percent.
Canada’s flu season so far has been milder with more of a mix of strains. But CDC officials said effectiveness figures in the U.S. may end up in the same range.
Some researchers say part of the problem may be that most flu vaccine is made by growing viruses in chicken eggs; the viruses can mutate in the eggs, making the vaccine less effective in people.
The cold winter in many parts of the country may also have played a role, keeping people indoors and helping flu bugs to spread, said Dr. David Weber, a University of North Carolina flu expert.
Whatever the reason, “it’s a whopper of a flu season,” said Mimi Dreifuss, a North Carolina nurse who got sick this week.
Dreifuss, 61, worked in a pediatrician’s office for years and didn’t catch the flu. She retired last year and didn’t get a flu shot figuring she was no longer around sick children. This week she had a 101 temperature and was diagnosed with the flu.
“I’m feeling kind of foolish,” said Dreifuss, of Bynum, North Carolina.
In Pensacola, Florida, an ER nurse’s Facebook rant after a 12-hour shift got attention this week, with her venting about people not doing enough to stop the spread of germs. She demonstrates the “magic trick” of sneezing or coughing into the crook of an arm.
She also complains about people without true emergencies crowding into waiting rooms, next to people with the flu.
“So guess what? Five flus came in, 15 flus walk out. It’s great,” says Katherine Lockler. “They’ll be back.”