Woody Higgins, the president of the Penobscot County Conservation Association, is excited that the club will be hosting the 82nd Eastern Maine Sportsmen's Show this weekend at the University of Maine in Orono. Credit: Courtesy of Penobscot County Conservation Association

The Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show has long been a constant in Woody Higgins’ life.

And he’s in good company, since lots of outdoor aficionados in Maine have attended the popular event for many years.

Higgins first attended the show as a teenager during the 1950s at the old Bangor Auditorium. His father, Paul Higgins Sr., was a member of the Penobscot County Conservation Association, the volunteer organization that sponsors the gathering. It was Paul Higgins’ job to run the trout pool that once was part of the proceedings, where kids could go fishing.

Woody Higgins later got involved working at the show himself and directed it for a few years during its time at the new Bangor Auditorium and Bangor Civic Center.

Higgins is now the president of the Penobscot County Conservation Association and for the last 20 years he has been front and center helping the organization put on the Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show.

After a three-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event returns for a three-day run beginning Friday at the University of Maine’s New Balance Field House, Memorial Gym and Wallace Pool on the Orono campus.

Nobody is happier about promoting the association’s harbinger of spring than Higgins, who is eager to rekindle friendships, make new acquaintances and help the club raise money for numerous youth conservation initiatives.

“There’s a lot of friendships that have been developed,” Woody Higgins said of the Sportsmen’s Show. “It opens so many doors when you get to know different people in all the different groups. The sporting community in Maine is so open to helping people in the outdoors.”

More than 100 vendors, exhibitors and presenters will be on hand to share their expertise and products for what is expected to be a large gathering of longtime patrons, newcomers and families.

The show begins on Friday, running from 4 to 8 p.m., then resumes for two full days of activities on Saturday (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Sunday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Admission is $9 a day for adults and children ages 12 and older. Kids under 12 are admitted free. There also is a weekend pass available for $15.

There will be something for just about everyone, including presentations on hunting dogs, search and rescue dogs, and blood tracking dogs. Saturday features a question and answer session with Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Tim Peabody, a Maine Warden Service K-9 demonstration led by Warden Alan Curtis (you may remember him from “North Woods Law”) and sessions on moose calling.

In the pool, events will include canoe paddling and poling, paddling safety and rescue skills, fly casting, dog dock diving and retriever demonstrations. For youngsters, the gym space will be home to fly tying, an air gun and archery range, and wildlife displays and activities.

You can even stop by and chat with yours truly, Bangor Daily News Outdoors Editor Pete Warner. A full schedule of demonstrations and events is available here.

For the Penobscot County Conservation Association, the show provides a critical infusion of funds that will enable it to continue promoting hunting, fishing and conservation activities. It is the club’s main fundraiser and not having the event in recent years has proved challenging.

“Financially, we struggled, but we survived,” said Woody Higgins, who pointed out that the pandemic also prohibited the association from holding dinners and renting out its facility in Brewer, which also provided income.

The club was unable to put on its annual Bangor Gun Show, further hampering its fundraising efforts. Somehow, the group has been able to work through all of those challenges and continue its generous scholarship programs.

“All of our fundraisers basically dried up for at least two years, but we were able to make it work with some community grants and some raffles,” Higgins said.

The Penobscot County Conservation Association has provided upwards of $30,000 in annual scholarships for students enrolled in wildlife ecology, conservation, forestry and biology programs at UMaine and the University of Maine at Machias. It regularly supports UMaine Cooperative Extension’s 4-H programs, including summer camps and learning centers at Greenland Point in Princeton and at Bryant Pond, and has provided funding for the Maine Youth Fish and Game Association in Milford.

“Over the years we’ve donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for kids going into those camps,” Higgins said.

Final preparations for the Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show are underway. On Thursday, association members will descend on UMaine to prepare for the arrival of vendors and presenters.

It has been a long time coming and Higgins is grateful for the efforts of everyone involved at the Penobscot County Conservation Association and at UMaine for their efforts in making it all come together.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” Higgins said, calling the show a rite of spring. “It’s great meeting all those people and seeing friends and vendors.”

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...