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[Thu Aug 05 2004]

If you haven't attended the Southern Illinois Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Days for a couple years, you may want to circle the weekend of Sept. 25-26 on your calendar.

The local celebration, which engulfs the John A. Logan College campus for a weekend, is generally regarded as the largest celebration of its kind in the United States.

While some features change from year-to-year, the basic formula has remained constant -- expose youngsters to the wonders of hunting, fishing and the great outdoors. Many of the attractions that were the foundations of the event are still the most popular -- the kid's fishing area, the shotgun range, retriever demonstrations and archery ranges.

This year, the event will be dressed up a little more.

Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, who qualified for the 2003 Bassmaster Classic, will be at the event throughout the weekend. Morgenthaler will have his vibrantly-colored boat on the grounds and will be available to answer questions.

In addition, Morgenthaler will be giving seminars on both days and will help emcee the Midwest Bass Classic weigh-in Saturday afternoon. He is the only Southern Illinois resident to qualify for the Classic.

Morgenthaler will not be the only celebrity hanging out at National Hunting and Fishing Days.

Trick-shot artist Byron Ferguson will also be in attendance.



Ferguson, who is frequently seen on outdoor television programs, will be at the kid's archery area and will put on trick-shot demonstrations. Olympic archer John Magera may also be in attendance if the necessary arrangements can be made.

Last, and certainly not least, country comedian Mike Snider will entertain at Friday night's benefactor's banquet.

The banquet has served as a forum to honor local businesses who have selflessly supported the event. This year, the committee hopes to entertain, as well as honor, the individuals and businesses that help keep the Southern Illinois Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Days a free event.

In addition to being an accomplished picker and fiddler, Snider is downright funny. His self-deprecating and homespun humor seems a perfect match for National Hunting and Fishing Days.

Snider is a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry.

Tickets for Snider's performance will be on sale soon. Tickets will be on sale at John A. Logan College for $15 apiece. Tickets can be ordered by calling (618) 985-2828, Ext. 8208.

There are other possible surprises on tap.

There will be two "guests" at the Kids Fishing Area that might liven up the weekend.

A pair of flathead catfish, the smallest being about 25 pounds, are now calling the John A. Logan College pond home. Any youngster that hooks one of the big cats, in addition to getting the thrill of a lifetime, is eligible for prizes.

There have also been a few changes in the calling contest lineup.

The Winchester World Open Goose Calling Championship remains the centerpiece event.

The top prize has been boosted to $1,500 this year. Callers generally consider this event one of the top 2-3 contests in the country.

The duck calling contest has been overhauled. This year the event will be a "meat-calling" contest, meaning callers will be judged on actual ability to bring birds to the blind, rather than the stylized version preferred by national events.

As always, there is always something of interest for everyone in the family. And, the best part -- it's free.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern. Contact him at or call 618-529-5454 x15805

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