Minnesota's Northwest Sportshow remains titan of U.S. outdoor shows

The Northwest Sportshow, Thursday through Sunday in Minneapolis, has clicked for generations with the fundamentals: entertainment, education and gear.

The unusually mild Minnesota winter has, for some people, moved up daydreams about time spent outdoors in the weeks to come.

All those thoughts bode well for the Northwest Sportshow, beginning Thursday, where dreamers have been finding validation for going on a century.

The nation's longest-running outdoor expo of its kind, having missed just two years (to COVID) since it began in 1932, still sticks to the fundamentals of family fun and entertainment, education, and all manner of gear.

Darren Envall recalls coming from Duluth to the metro as a kid, with spring on the doorstep and the Northwest Sportshow ushering visitors into the season.

Now he has managed the show since 2010 after helping former owner Dave Perkins since 2004, the year Perkins sold the blowout gathering to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Envall said the show is a tradition that "just has evolved a little bit." So while waterskiing squirrels and lumberjack competitions don't remain on the docket, he is excited about the entertainment (and educational) value of, for example, Jonathan Wood and his Extreme Raptors Show. The falconer and wildlife rehabilitator has presentations all four days.

Always a major part of the show, with dozens of vendors, the latest fishing rods and tackle and the experts to show how to deploy them haven't gone anywhere. And those experts, like Lake Mille Lacs guide Tony Roach, bring more cred if they're from the North Star state, said Envall. He recalled a year when Bassmaster Elite newcomer Seth Feider, who honed his skills in local tournaments, was a bigger draw than Randy Howell, an Alabamian fresh off a Bassmaster Classic victory.

"People want to learn techniques from people from Minnesota," he said.

Envall expects 25,000 people to visit the show through Sunday. "The foundation is still here. We are still using the basics."

Right down to the walleye fish fry on Friday.

-Bob Timmons, Star Tribune

2001: Spectators watch as dogs practiced jumping and retrieving buoys at the Dockdogs booth. Dogs launched from a 40-foot dock into a pool with 26,000 gallons of water.
2002: Andy Stewart handles a 6-foot diamondback rattlesnake.
2011: Rainbow trout fill out a family trout pond.
1989: Fishing icon Al Lindner has a captive audience at the Sportshow, held at the Metrodome.
2023: Visitors at a crappie fishing seminar.
2023: Vicky Yang holds her son Theodore, sporting his Lund boat hat.
2015: Montana elk hunts are one lure for these guides.
1984: Ron Schara wrote about the sportshow - "a place of dreams" - in 1984.
1982: The Sportshow used to have a 10-day run, owing to its popularity.