Grayson Richmond of Birdsacre Sanctuary in Ellsworth displays a barred owl during the 78th Eastern Maine Sportsmen's Show in Orono. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki

Editor’s note: The Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show has been canceled by the University of Maine on Thursday morning.

For more than eight decades, outdoors enthusiasts have marked the impending arrival of spring by attending the Penobscot County Conservation Association’s Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show.

When organizers kick off the 82nd edition of that venerable expo at the University of Maine’s New Balance Field House and Memorial Gym on Friday, they’ll eagerly greet attendees while urging them to observe some special precautions amid global concerns about the COVID-19 virus.

The global virus outbreak has led to the cancellation of many mass gatherings, including athletic contests. Byers said the show will go on, but precautions are being taken.

“We’ve worked with the University of Maine and will have more hand sanitizers out,” Mark Byers, the association’s show director said. “We’re kind of treating it a lot like influenza and just [telling people] to try to limit their contact, hand-to-hand, with people. Take every precaution you can.”

The show hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Adults admission is $8, while children under 12 get in free. A weekend pass is available for $12.

Show attendees will want to be prepared for potential adjustments to their traditional parking plan, as the University of Maine men’s hockey team will host Hockey East playoff games at Alfond Arena at 7 p.m. Friday and at 6 p.m. Saturday. That means that parking will be at a premium, as hockey fans and show attendees vie for a limited number of spots both evenings.

Byers said show organizers have been in contact with UMaine officials to address parking concerns, and the conservation association will operate a shuttle bus to parking lots farther away from the Alfond Arena and field house area. He advised show attendees to follow signs to satellite lots.

We’ve been staffing the BDN booth for years, and nights with hockey playoff games next door are typically slow, attendance-wise. But look on the bright side: If you hop on the shuttle bus, you’ll have the chance to have even more time interacting with show vendors like us, without as much competition for our time.

Byers said 13 new vendors will join a list of well-established returnees for this year’s show. The event boasts a rich tradition that many attendees look forward to.

“A lot of our vendors went [to the show] as children,” Byers said. “Their fathers took them and they returned to the show as vendors or as supporters and visitors.”

Our BDN crew will be on hand to talk about our outdoor coverage, listen to your suggestions, and sign you up for a chance at our annual “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest.

One lucky winner will spend June 14 fly fishing the East Outlet of the Kennebec River with registered Maine guide Dan Legere of the Maine Guide Fly Shop — and me. We’ve been running this promotion since 2002, and all of our winners have told us they’ve had a great time.

Another highlight of the show for the BDN crew: My colleague Aislinn Sarnacki, our Act Out editor, and I will both present classroom seminars for attendees.

Sarnacki, who has written three hiking books (and who would love to sell you a book and sign it for you when you visit our booth), will talk about dog-friendly hikes in Maine at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

I’ll share some tales from my first book, “Evergreens,” during a pair of sessions over the course of the weekend. I’d love to see you at one (or both). I’ll be speaking at 11:45 a.m. Saturday and at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. I’ll also have books available for purchase at our booth all weekend long. See you there!

John Holyoke can be reached at or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...