Wildwood Park program coordinator Jeb Bell took stock of the area's outdoors scene a few months ago and thought of something to add.
He talked to Columbia County recreation manager Charlie Beale and devised a plan for the inaugural Wildwood Sportsman Festival, which will be held Sept. 27 at Wildwood Park.
"Nothing like this has been done before, that I'm aware of, in the area," Bell said. "We got a nice facility that's conducive to have this. This is a great hunting and fishing area here. We got the (recreational vehicles) camping out here, we got the lake and our ramps, and all the hunting and fishing stores."
Bell said he had hoped to schedule the festival sooner, but various summer fishing tournaments forced the date back.
Local businesses will be the primary focus of the festival. Vendors can pay $100 and register for a spot in Wildwood's main parking lot. Bell had originally set a deadline for vendors to register, but now he asks only that businesses sign up as soon as possible.
He said he expects 15 to 20 businesses to participate, including boat and RV dealerships, hunting and fishing stores, and other outdoor-oriented businesses.
There also will be nonprofit groups in attendance, including the National Wild Turkey Federation, Georgia Ducks Unlimited, the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Army.
The festival will kick off with a 5k run starting at 8 a.m. The run will be split into six age groups. Registration is $10 per person and includes a T-shirt.
The main attraction likely will be the wild game cook-off, dubbed the "Fur, Fin and Feather Cook-Off." Teams will compete to prepare food in one or more of the categories, with the winning team of each category receiving $200 and competing for the grand prize of $500.
Winners will be determined by a panel of judges. Participants also will receive feedback from the public, which will be allowed to sample the entries.
Bell said 10 teams are registered, but more teams can register before the Sept. 15 deadline.
Bell said he hopes the festival becomes an annual event. He said he expects the area's number of outdoorsmen will make the event a success.
"It will be hunting season here soon," Bell said. "We want to publicize the park, the outdoors and give something to the community."
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