Elk license drawing to again highlight annual Elk Expo
For Joni Sadley, the state's annual elk expo never really ends.
Sure, the expo is just a two-day affair that's held late every September. At the end of the second day, the vendors head for their next gig, the Elk County fairgrounds are readied for something else and the visitors leave for home.
It's only a short while later, though, that the calls to Sadley's office start.
"People start just a few months after it's over, wanting to know when the next one is," said Sadley, spokeswoman for the Northwest Pennsylvania Great Outdoors visitors bureau and the woman who coordinates the expo.
That's how popular the event -- highlighted by the drawing to determine who gets an elk hunting license -- has become. Last year, the expo drew somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people to rural Elk County. This year's event -- set for Sept. 25 and 26 -- is expected to draw even more.
That's true despite the fact that the Pennsylvania Game Commission is only offering 40 elk licenses this year, as opposed to the 100 that were available in 2003.
Interest in the hunt hasn't seemed to diminish. At this point last year, the Game Commission had received 3,660 elk license applications via e-mail. So far this year it's received 3,609, said Jerry Feaser, press secretary for the Commission.
"Electronically, we're right on par with where we were a year ago," Feaser said.
Add in the applications that have come in via mail and the Commission has about 7,000 applications in hand so far.
The Commission received 26,577 applications last year. With several weeks yet to go before the deadline to apply -- mail-in applications are due Aug. 27, while those submitted electronically are due Sept. 10 -- Feaser said he expects the Commission to be in that neighborhood again.
"All applications will be put into one container for the public drawing," said Vern Ross, executive director of the Commission. "We then will draw enough applications to award 40 elk licenses. The first 12 will be awarded antlered elk licenses, and the next 28 will be awarded antlerless elk licenses."
The elk license drawing will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 25. The actual elk hunt will be Nov. 8-13.
As for the rest of the festival, one of the most popular attractions is the guided elk bus tours. Visitors to the festival can sign up at the expo for one of the tours, which last two to three hours and -- at least so far -- have always ended up with visitors getting to see elk.
"The people have always come back happy," Sadley said. "They've been a big hit with visitors."
The expo has drawn visitors from as far away as Ohio, Vermont and Connecticut. That's generally a good thing, though it's also led to problems with traffic and parking in an area of two-land roads, farm fields and woods.
"Traffic was backed up for four or five miles from noon on. It was packed," Sadley said. "We're trying to solve that so it's less of a problem."
Sadley said shuttle buses and extra parking have been secured.
As always, the event will feature vendors, contests like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's elk bugling competition, seminars, and displays. This year's expo promises to have more activities for children, too.
Negotiations to bring a big-name band to the expo were continuing at press time.
In the meantime, Northwest Pennsylvania Great Outdoors has even put together some elk watching tips on its Web site -- www.pagreatoutdoors.com -- for people traveling to the area.
Sadley hopes all that is enough to keep the expo as popular as its been so far.
"Based on the calls and e-mails we get, it's popular enough that we'll definitely keep doing it," Sadley said.