TRACY - There were a lot of highlights at the 10th annual Tracy Area Sportsmen's Show Saturday and Sunday, but none perhaps more than the first-ever University of Minnesota Raptor Center show.
More than 200 people jammed into the bleachers at the Veterans Memorial Center to catch a glimpse of Bud, the 15-year-old bald eagle, Samantha, a great horned owl, and a number of other raptors found in the Midwest.
"It was really good," Tracy resident Eleanor Hewitt said. "I enjoyed seeing all those birds up close."
Photos by Jenny Kirk
Visitors at the 2012 Tracy Area Sportsmen’s Show this weekend, including Cade Swenhaugen, right, had the opportunity to see a German Jagdterrier puppy shown by Angie Cohrs at the Minnesota Trapping Association booth. Angie Cohrs and her husband Shannon raise the unique hunting dogs at their home in Dovray.
Raptors, distinguished by their talons, beak and eyesight, include falcons, accipiters, buteos, harriers, eagles, ospreys, vultures and owls. Brenda Wieme of Tracy said she appreciated that the Raptor Center came to the area.
"You hear about it, but when we're in the Cities, we never seem to make it there," she said. "I'm glad I got to see the Raptor show."
Educational presenters Joanne and Greg Peterson were on hand for the meet and greet sessions as well as sharing their knowledge of raptors during the daily program.
"We helped 699 birds at the Raptor Center last year," Joanne Peterson said. "When we get these birds, they're very, very sick."
Approximately 30 birds are used for education, Peterson said, while 50-60 are being rehabilitated at any given time. About 300 volunteers assist with the process.
"Bud is missing his left eye," Peterson said. "He has no depth perception."
Because of his injury, the bald eagle, which was extremely popular with the children, will live his life in captivity, which could be up to 50 years.
"Minnesota has the highest nesting population in the lower 48 states," Peterson said. "They're doing so well. You can see them all over now."
Visitors also got to meet Juno, a 14-year-old peregrine falcon, which is the fastest animal in the world.
"They can fly up to 260 miles per hour," Peterson said.
Cinnamon, an American Kestrel, represented the smallest of the falcon family in North America.
"The Raptor Center was phenomenal," said Cary Quigley, event committee member. "The bleachers were full, so I was glad to see that."
Early on, cold, wet conditions forced the 6th annual car, pickup and motorcycle show to be postponed until Sunday, but the weather improved as the day went on. Tracy Chamber of Commerce Director Missie Erbes reported that nearly 650 people came through the doors Saturday, a big boost in attendance from recent years.
"The weather cooperated with us, so it was an outstanding Saturday," Erbes said. "Including kids, there were close to 1,000 people here the first day. And Sunday, with the car, pickup and motorcycle show, it'll bring in a whole new crew of spectators."
Seminars by Bill Hesselgrave, Justin Lightfoot and Dakota Grills were well attended, Erbes said, as was the pedal pull competition for youngsters. Twenty-two competitors took home trophies.
"I talked to several people attending who thought it was great to have the cooking side of a seminar too," Erbes said. "But all the seminars went very, very well."
Under their dad's (Jeff Berthelsen) watchful eye, Tyler and Tony Berthelsen of Echo enjoyed the laser shoot.
"It was fun," Tyler Berthelsen said.
Others seemed to be entertained by trying out the HI-Dow massager, inspecting Mike Dulas' taxidermy work at the Buck 'N Rooster booth or eating a pork chop on a stick. There were also opportunities to check out puppies or inspect animal pelts at the Minnesota Trappers Association or Window area Fish and Wildlife Service booths.
"I have a lot of pelts, including a $1,000 (gray) wolf and a $800 mountain lion," park ranger Howard Paul said.
Countless people stopped in to pay tribute at a memorial booth set up for wildlife artist James Meger, who lost his battle with cancer this past August at the age of 69. He had been a strong supporter of the Tracy Area Sportsmen's Show, including the donation of a print for the raffle each year.
"James remembered everybody he met and he wanted to please everybody," said Ken Kurtz, who, along with his brother Tim Kurtz, is dedicated to keeping Meger's memory alive. "He was very personal. He liked to make sure everybody was happy with the print they were getting."
Together, the brothers operate T and K Kreations, as a way to represent Meger's work. While Tim Kurtz took half of their collection of prints to a rescheduled show in Nebraska, Ken Kurtz displayed the other half of Meger's work at the Tracy show.
"I'm glad to be here," Ken Kurtz said. "We talked to Jim about continuing his displays. He said he wouldn't want anybody else but us to do it. So we'll represent his work for as long as we can."
Both the brothers have good full-time jobs, Ken Kurtz said, so traveling to shows is something they do from the heart in addition to their employment.
"I learned a lot from Jim," Kurtz said. "He liked to make people happy. So we want to keep putting his work out there and get more people to hang his prints in their houses. He was a very talented guy."
After selling a wildlife print, Kurtz said it's taken to Meger's wife Laurene to sign. Then, the print is shipped back to the buyer.
"We haven't done a lot of shows yet, but we're looking to do a lot more next year," Kurtz said.
Pheasants Forever is in the process of purchasing 500 of Meger's last print, "Jumpin' the Gun," featuring German short-hair dogs and pheasants. Kurtz said, despite customers' concerns, the price of prints will not go up unless Laurene Meger says to raise them or the process of printing the paintings starts to cost more.
Mike and June Mumm also have fond memories of Meger. Shortly after his death, the Tracy couple bought a 1,500-piece puzzle replicating the print "Places Remembered: Winter." Among the hidden images of angels, it turned out that one piece was missing from the box, much like Meger was missing from the 10th anniversary show, they said.
"Missing a piece, missing a friend," was written above the couple's story about the puzzle at the memorial booth.
A blown-up banner outside the veterans center also showcased another missing sportsman, Bryan Hillger, who died of cancer in December. Hillger was one of the original committee members as well as serving as Tracy chief of police for 18 years.