Dustin and I arrived at the fairgrounds, after work on Thursday, March 25,
to set up our booth. Dave Graley, another NANFA member that lives here in
Columbia was also there to help as well as my wife's cousin, Keith Crout.
Keith is a taxidermist/contractor/carpenter and has won many state,
regional, and national awards both with mounted and reproduction fish and
birds. He had offered to build a stand for us to put our tanks on. I had
also asked him to bring a couple of his fish mounts for us to hang just to
get people's attention.
We checked in and got our booth assignment and proceeded to set up. We had
a 50 gallon tank, a 38 gallon tank, and a small 1 gallon critter keeper. We
set the tanks up with gravel and sand, some driftwood, and hydro-sponge
filters. I had filled several plastic drums with prepared water and we
unloaded them and filled the tanks up. In the small critter keeper we put a
clump of java moss and some banded pygmy sunfish (Elassoma zonatum), and
some pygmy livebearers (Heterandria formosa).
Into the 50 gallon tank we put lowcountry shiners (Pteronotropis stonei),
lined topminnows (Fundulus lineolatus), golden topminnows (F. chrysotus),
blackbanded sunfish (Enneacanthus chaetodon), swamp darters (Etheostoma
fusiforme), and savannah darters (Etheostoma fricksium).
The 38 gallon tank was set up a piece of driftwood covered in brush algae
and we put fieryblack shiners (Cyprinella pyrrhomelas), greenfin shiners
(Cyprinella chloristia), yellowfin shiners (Notropis lutipinnis) of the red
and yellowfinned varieties to show the difference, and some seagreen darters
After we got everything set up, we decided to see what was going on and who
was here. To our left was 'Okefenokee Joe' !!! He is a real character and
quite interesting. Seems like everyone that came by his booth knew him or
had some memory of him. He's been coming the Palmetto Sportsmen's Classic
for 18 years now. I ate supper with him Saturday night. The next space
past him was a guy named Scott Jones. He's from Carlton, Ga and has a
business called "MediaPrehistoria". He does presentations on archaeology,
making arrow heads , fires, and tools like the native americans used to. He
had many of the old style tools and weapons on display and would give
demonstrations on arrowhead making and fire starting. I honestly believe he
could start a fire with two sticks fast that I could set a clump of grass on
fire with a match. We were invited up to his place to sample the streams
and beaver ponds around there. On the other side of our booth was the US
Fish & Wildlife booth. We were talking with them and got asked to do some
stream surveys in the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and
possibly Waccamaw NWR. Across the aisle from us was the Savannah River Site
Ecology Lab booth with lots of cool amphibians and reptiles on display.
American alligators, alligator and common snapping turtles, every venomous
snake found in SC and many non-venomous snakes were here along with sirens,
salamanders, frogs, toads, and tortoises. They had a Mole Kingsnake escape
sometime Saturday night and never found it. I kept waiting to hear someone
scream "SNAKE!" all day Sunday but they never did. Also in the building
with us was the SC DNR booths including the Freshwater Fisheries guys. They
had a large tank on display with LM bass, striped bass, channel catfish,
chain pickerel, longnose gar, bluegill, crappie and several other species in
it. I actually had a few people mention that our tanks, even though
smaller, looked so much better than any of the other tanks at the show.
Several fisheries guys mentioned they were looking forward to our convention
later this year.
When the show opened to the public on Friday at noon, the people floodgates
opened. While most of the attention in our building was centered around the
reptile/amphibian booth across from us, we did have a fair amount of
interest. Probably 8 to 12 people who showed real genuine interest and
could quite possibly become new members. Hard to convince people that
banded pygmy sunfish and pygmy livebearers aren't "baby fish" and then try
to explain to me what they will look like when they grow up. Someone tried
to convince me that the Heterandria were baby bass ("you can tell by the
stripe down the side") and that the pygmies were baby warmouth (or mollies
as some call them). With the Hets, I was told by this person that they
would soon be large enough to eat the "mollies" so I probably shouldn't keep
them together. Guess I need to redo some of my tanks.....don't want these
"bass" knocking off my golden topminnows and blackbanded sunnies.
Exhibitors were set up in five different buildings and many outdoor booths.
Many of these booths, set up in other buildings, were selling hunting,
fishing, boating and camping supplies. Also there were several conservation
organizations represented as well. I believe I heard there were over 200
exhibitors this year. The only attendance figures I heard were "in the 10's
of thousands". Still an impressive group to be displaying our fish to and a
great show to attend!
Chip Rinehart & Dustin Smith
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