A peek under the big top of the Northwest Sportshow

A peek under the big top of the Northwest Sportshow, the world’s longest running outdoors expo — now with a new ringleader.


Darren Envall, the new manger of the Northwest Sportshow, fielded constant phone calls while preparing for the show earlier this week.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Stroll into the Minneapolis Convention Center when the doors swing open this morning at 11, and amid the sea of boats arranged bow to stern, elk heads hanging from exhibitor displays, trout swimming in a portable pond and alligators ruminating calmly — hopefully — amid the chaos, just try to find Darren Envall, the cell-phone-to-an-ear orchestrator of the Greatest Show on Earth, the Northwest Sportshow.

OK, maybe not the Greatest Show on Earth. But one of the greatest. And certainly one of the most storied and largest exhibits worldwide whose sole intent is to stoke the dreams of hunters, anglers and other adventurers, while also featuring the occasional offbeat entertainer.

Such as water-skiing squirrels.

“No water skiing squirrels this year,’’ laughed Envall, 44, who is at the show’s helm for the first time, and thus is responsible for filling more than 300,000 square feet of Convention Center exhibitor space, while ensuring that tens of thousands of winter-weary visitors trip the show’s turnstiles.

“But we do have John Godwin of ‘Duck Dynasty’ and the ‘Swampmaster’ — Jeff Quattrocchi — with his Gator Show,’’ Envall said.

As the Sportshow’s head honcho, Envall has big shoes to fill. The annual springtime spectacle has been going great guns since 1932, when F.W. (Nick) Kahler founded it, making the show the nation’s longest-running outdoor extravaganza held indoors.

Or anywhere.

Headquartered for decades at the old Minneapolis Auditorium before showcasing its wares for three years in the Metrodome while the Convention Center was being built, the Northwest Sportshow is where Rapala fishing lures first tantalized American anglers, where Minnesotans initially stared wide-eyed at Carl Lowrance’s “Green Box’’ depth finder and fish locator, where Alumacraft boats, developed in 1946 in Minneapolis, were first floated and where the Eppinger Dardevle was popularized in Minnesota as a fish-catching machine.

The Sportshow — now formally called the Progressive Insurance Northwest Sportshow — is also where retired Star Tribune outdoors columnist Ron Schara once showcased his wild turkeys, hoping the gangly birds would fly back and forth to a makeshift roost, encouraged by Schara’s peerless calling.

“All went well,’’ recalled Schara, who now hosts the Minnesota Bound television show, “until one of the turkeys was blinded by a stage spotlight, missed the roost and tumbled to the floor. Which alerted one of Tom Dokken’s Labradors waiting nearby, and the dog chased the turkey around the stage in front of the crowd.

“It was a melee.’’

Now owned by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which bought the show from Dave Perkins in 2004, who in turn bought it from his dad, Phil, in 1985, who had bought it from Kahler in 1967, the show this year features 487 exhibitors, some of whom have traveled from the plains of Africa and the wilds of Alaska to strut their stuff.

“The Northwest Sportshow is real important to me and to my business,’’ said Tom Buckroyd of Alaskan Advantage in Sitka, Alaska. Buckroyd’s fishing lodge (www.buckroyd.com) targets the five Pacific salmon species as well as bottom dwellers such as halibut.

“Minnesotans love to hunt and fish, and about 50 percent of my customers are from Minnesota,’’ Buckroyd said.

Vacation destinations closer to home also are represented at the show, among them Pike Bay Lodge on Lake Vermilion (www.pikebaylodge.com), whose owner, Jay Schelde, says about 80 percent of his customers hail from the Twin Cities.

“A big part of the Sportshow is exposing yourself to new customers,’’ Schelde said. “But it’s also an important place to visit with existing clients. And the show is a good place to network with other resort owners, and to meet fishing tackle representatives. The Sportshow is where we buy our rods and reels each year.’’

On hold with the new director

A week ago, before the Convention Center was home to a single boat or elk head or alligator, Envall and his staff were in high gear overseeing the move of their offices to their temporary Convention Center headquarters.

  • related content

  • 'Ice out!' Looking ahead to opening the cabin

    Sunday March 30, 2014

    With spring here, at least officially, a cabin owner looks ahead to another fun season of swimming, boating and serious...

  • How to ... invite more wildlife to your forested property

    Thursday March 27, 2014

    It was a long and cold winter. The deep snow and subzero temperatures have delayed my normal forest management practices.Now,...

  • Cabin Country: North Country ideals and idylls

    Thursday March 27, 2014

    While toying with the idea of owning a cabin, I have painted many getaways as an artist.

  • Adults and children tested their fishing skills at the trout pond, a popular fixture of the Northwest Sportshow.

  • A young hunter practices his shot with help from the show's firearms safety instructors.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question