Kelly Countway has already started making phone calls in preparation of the 2017 Women That Hunt Expo.
While it might seem a tad early, none of her fellow Women That Hunt members are surprised after the success of the group’s first youth expo, held April 16 at the Don Henderson Memorial Sportsplex in Brookfield.
“It was beyond our expectations,” said Countway. “We had 56 exhibitors fill the rink and curling club which was well beyond our initial goal of 40. In terms of head count, we were honestly hoping for 500 but at the end of the day, more than 1,100 came through the door.”
As vehicles rolled into the parking lot of the Sportsplex, the first thing they could see was a large rock wall extending into the air. Despite cool temperatures, kids spent hours attempting to reach the top.
When they finally went inside, they were greeted with nothing but opportunities to explore and interact with the different exhibitors. From learning to shoot a bow to throwing punches with Micky Marshall of Marmac Athletics, kids were encouraged to take in as much as they could.
“The fact Micky stayed after the demonstrations and spent time with the kids means a lot,” said Teresa Elliott. “He let them practice and even taught them some moves. This is someone a lot of kids look up to. It’s the same with the BMX and skateboard guys. A lot of kids won’t just go to a club and specifically try things like this. But with this experience, it could be the start of a lifelong love for them.”
While inspiring and engaging youth was the primary goal of the expo, the Women That Hunt group also sought to raise money for several initiatives they support.
Admission was free for youths but adults paid $5. Inside, there was a 50/50 draw and prize tickets available for purchase. Scotiabank matched a portion of the proceeds raised while special guest Jonathan Torrens matched the 50/50 proceeds bringing the total to $6,835.
The group will be using that money to support bursaries at South Colchester Academy as well as putting 24 youth through a Firearms Safety and Hunter Safety courses.
“The credit has to be shared with the people who came and supported this venture,” said Elliott. “We received terrific community support. We had a lot of people travel from away just to take part. That gives us a lot of confidence heading into next year’s expo.
“We also have to thank the Sportsplex, especially Troy Sutherland for his effort,” she continued. “I know we put some stress on him when it came to getting the ice out of the rink and having the place ready for us.”
Vendor feedback has been overwhelming. Each one was given a survey card and asked to provide comments, concerns and suggestions for 2017.
In most cases, the surveys suggested a real excitement and anticipation for the next expo.
“I think coming into this, some of the exhibitors were skeptic,” said Elliott. “They weren’t sure how much to invest in this. They had no idea what to expect so they weren’t necessarily committed 100 per cent. From what we’re being told, we can expect a lot more next year. Some have even told us about other potential exhibitors who weren’t apart of the expo this year but could be an option next year.”
Although the expo accomplished a lot, the members continue to come back to the fact it encouraged kids to get engaged and learn more about what opportunities exist in their community.
“I loved watching the kids. Whether they were watching the BMX riders or petting a turtle, you could just see the awe on their face,” said Sharleen Martell.
“The K-9 unit was pretty popular too,” added Nicole Faulkner. “I don’t think there were many kids that didn’t have a smile on their face.”
“The most important component was the interaction,” said Countway. “I constantly reminded the vendors that this was going to be an interactive event. It was never designed to be a mass marketing platform where they would come and sell their product. We encouraged them to promote their items but we wanted them to interact with the kids. It was about engagement.
“When I saw Karlee Burgess down on the floor with her curling game, it was awesome,” continued Countway. “Here is a high profile, Atlantic Canadian athlete and she’s on the ground curling with kids. That’s what we wanted to see happening.”
Now the group will use what they’ve learned and apply it to next year’s expo.
“This started out with five people brainstorming,” said Countway. “We had no template, nothing. Some of the exhibitors actually approached us, which is great. I’m so glad we had our layout written in chalk. There was a lot of moving around. But we have the statistics now. We can use what we’ve collected this year and look at applying for grants. We want to take this to the next level. We’ve set the bar high.”
For more information, visit www.womenthathunt.com.