TAMPA — While anime and comic book enthusiasts swarmed the Tampa Convention Center downtown for Metrocon, the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday was overrun with some of the state’s most avid hunters.
The annual Big Buck Expo is the largest fishing and hunting exhibition in Florida, and one of the biggest in the country, organizers said. Dozens of vendors set up shop in the fairgrounds’ expo hall this weekend, selling everything from guns and fishing poles to camouflage bikinis to wine glasses made out of mason jars.
The expo, which has been based in Tampa for the past two years since outgrowing its previous location in Lakeland, is a chance for hunters to see and show off the newest products available, said Jay Everett, president of Southern Trophy Hunters and organizer of the event.
“They’re wanting to see the latest and greatest, the new odds and ends equipment that’s out there,” he said.
The event was packed Saturday afternoon, as people — many of them clad in camo — perused the booths. A turkey call occasionally was heard over the buzz of the crowd.
The three-day expo was expected to attract 9,000 to 11,000 people, Everett said. Most of the guests are from West and Central Florida, but the event usually attracts out-of-state visitors as well.
The expo also features an archery competition, snake and reptile shows and an appearance by Byron Ferguson from Shooting USA: Impossible Shots on the Outdoor Channel.
An Air Dogs show was held in front of the event center, where trained dogs took leaps off a deck into a swimming pool and competed for the farthest jump.
Hunting is a popular pastime in Florida, Everett said. When he began hosting the expo about 12 years ago in Dothan, Ala., most of the attendees were from Florida, ultimately leading to his decision to move it the Tampa area.
“It’s a big part of the economy here,” he said.
Laurie Clark and Lisa Cox, both of Tampa, perused the jewelry booths after looking for game feeders. Clark wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but did go home with a pink purse with sparkles and a camo print.
“You can still be girly and do all this,” she said.
The Big Buck Expo continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children age 17 and younger.
To find out more, go to www.southerntrophyhunters.com.