The sixth annual Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show will fill the Pavilion of the City of Marion next weekend, Feb. 1-3. The show is sponsored by the Williamson County Tourism Bureau.

This is the second year the show has been operated by the tourism bureau. As in previous years, the show is sold out.

Shannon Johnson, executive director of the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, said the show is a perfect fit for the region.

“Because our niche is outdoor recreation, we are able to display several different options for outdoor recreation,” she said. “It gives families an outlet on weekends that is free. We have several specialty vendors that come to display their products.”

The word free is a key to the show’s success. There is no admission or parking fees. Last year the show drew about 11,000 visitors.

Doors open at 4 p.m. Feb. 1. Show hours are from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 1; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 2; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 3.

Last year, the event raised $11,000 for two local charities.

“That’s what makes this different than other shows,” Johnson said. “We’re not in it for the money; we’re in it for charity.

“When we took over this show we decided to bring in a local children’s charity. We split the proceeds from this show with the Gum Drops and the Youth Outdoor Education Foundation.”

The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation provides hunting and fishing opportunities for area children. Gum Drops is a Carterville-based group that provides backpacks of food for under privileged children to get them through weekends.

However, the Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show also provides standard fare for outdoor recreation-starved visitors.

“We beefed up our seminars this year,” Johnson said. “We have three new presenters as well as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (fisheries) biologists report. We have the SIU Bassers that will do the bass seminars. We have Joel Drury and Jason Dudley doing our crappie fishing. Dennis Hollingshead will be doing our catfishing seminars.”

Other displays will include boat vendors, fishing guides and tackle vendors.

“Our tackle vendors are really up this year,” Johnson said. “We have some phenomenal fishing in this area.

“We see people from Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky. We had eight states represented last year based on license plates and vendors. We definitely are drawing people here to fish.”

Several giveaways will be featured Friday and Saturday.

“We’re giving 50 tackle boxes to the first 50 children through the door Friday and Saturday,” Johnson said. “Friday only, we will have door prizes for children and adults.”

In addition, the Tomcat Hill Social Club will provide musical entertainment from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call the Williamson County Tourism Bureau at 618-997-3690.

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