The annual Game Fair, held at the Armstrong Ranch Kennels, has become quite the popular stumping ground for politicians over the years. Known as the nation’s largest outdoor, pre-hunting, family participation event, Game Fair attracts around 50,000 people every year—the vast majority of whom are hunters or hunting supporters.
Quite a sizable demographic, eh?
The only other time you get that many people together in one place at a public event is the Minnesota State Fair. While many Game Fair attendees also head to the State Fair, once the fall hunting seasons arrive that Game Fair crowd is pretty hard to reach.
We tend to spend every spare minute we have either in the field, in the marsh, in the stand or getting ready to head out to one of those locations. Politics doesn’t seem to fall very high on the list of priorities when watching a chilly, October-morning sunrise outdoors—but it needs to be. More so these days than ever before.
Just as Game Fair helps hunters with last minute preparations for the fall hunting seasons, it has also become an opportunity for to learn where candidates stand on issues important to the outdoors.
Thanks to pressure from several organizations and publications, Game Fair has become almost a testing ground, if you will, for candidates. It has also been a gathering place for candidates and Constitutional amendments to garnish support from the “hook and bullet” crowd that is so prevalent in Minnesota.
“This year, there are more political candidates with a booth than we’ve ever had in all of our 29 years,” said Chuck Delaney, the host and founder of Game Fair. Both the democrats an republicans have a booth, both U.S. Senators have a booth, the Secretary of State has one, both candidates for Congressional District 6 are there, the 48th DFL District, Gubernatorial candidates Tom Emmer and Tom Horner have booths, as do several judge and county attorney candidates. Sportsmen organizations, including Sportsmen for Change and the Minnesota Conservation Federation, also have booths with a priority placed on politics.
The Fox News Channel was at Game Fair twice during its first weekend covering a national story centered around the 6th Congressional District between Democrat Tarryl Clark and Republican incumbent Michele Bachmann. Both candidates worked the crowds at Game Fair, which resides in their district, while a three-person camera crew captured every sight, sound and reaction.
If you want to avoid politics you can still come to Game Fair for all the hunting, dogs and outdoor sports people expect; but if you want to meet the candidates, talk with their supporters, grill them on their stance on issues or praise them for their voting record and priorities then Game Fair is the place to be.
For the first time in Game Fair history, it will be the launching grounds of the statewide Gubernatorial election and the first of what will most likely be several debates between the three candidates. That’s because, coming on the heels of the August 10 primary, all three major party candidates will be on hand to debate clean water, habitat and similar issues important to hunters, anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts.
The debate is being sponsored by Outdoor News Editor Rob Drieslein and “Sportsmen For Change” executive director Garry Leaf (and hosted by Drieslein and Ron Schara) all of whom are very familiar with politics at Game Fair. Throughout the years, both have worked hard to bring political issues and candidates before the crowds.
For many Game Fair attendees, this is one of the last times they’ll think about politics as they spend as many spare minutes of their time in the field and marsh throughout September, October and November.
Sportsmen and women are a pretty disjointed group when it comes to politics, but we are a very important demographic who need to raise outdoors up the list of our voting priorities. Come on out to the Game Fair on Saturday to hear the gubernatorial candidates debate at 11 a.m. in the Main Seminar Tent.
If you can’t make it then, come out Friday or Sunday and stop by the different political booths and make sure the candidates of all parties know that you exist, you have outdoors priorities, and that you’ll take a few minutes out from your busy fall hunting schedule to vote. Don’t forget to mention that after the election, you’ll hold them accountable for their pledges and promises.
More from Ron Hustvedt
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Plenty to see and do for young and old alike (including the dog) at Game Fair, the largest outdoors family pre-hunting event in the country.