If you are contemplating a Canadian hunting or fishing expedition in the near future, the upcoming festivities at Pheasant Run's Mega Center in St. Charles will seem like Christmas all over again.
The Mega Center plays host to the popular All-Canada Show Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 11-14, with tickets at the door costing $12 for adults and $10 for seniors. Children 17 and younger are admitted free, and veterans are admitted free on Sunday. Discounted tickets ($8) are available online at www.AllCanada.com. Parking is free.
If you goWhat: All-Canada Show, featuring 150 lodges and resorts catering to hunting and fishing enthusiasts
When: 5-9 p.m. Thursday; 3-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 11-14
Where: Pheasant Run Mega Center, 4051 E. Main St. (Route 64), St. Charles
Admission: $12 at the door for adults and $10 for seniors. Children 17 and younger are admitted free; veterans admitted free on Sunday; discounted tickets ($8) available online.
The show features 150 Canadian lodges under one roof -- all ready to help hunting and fishing enthusiasts of all budget levels plan that ultimate outing.
"The show strictly is based off Canadian lodges and resorts," said Steve Cegielski, one of the owners of the All-Canada Show. "There is no retail aspect. This is strictly a travel show. If you are looking to book a Canadian fishing and lodging adventure, we are the way to go. It's a one-stop shop. This is the largest gathering of Canadian lodges in the U.S. You won't find 150 Canadian lodge owners in one building at one time."
The All-Canada Show is in its 35th year and also runs events in Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This year marks the 34th year in a row the show has been at Pheasant Run. In fact, the All-Canada Show was the first event in the Mega Center, Cegielski noted.
"The show was started way back at a Milwaukee-area local newspaper by an outdoors sports writer as a way to reach out to Canadian lodge owners," said Cegielski. "In the beginning years the show attracted 15-20 lodge owners."
Now, in addition to the 150 lodge and resort owners, Cegielski said the St. Charles stop typically attracts between 7,000-8,000 attendees during the four days. He added around 25 percent of attendees end up booking trips at the show, while 85 percent of attendees will book a trip in the next few years.
"This is why our lodge owners love coming here," he said. "People who attend the show are truly interested in booking hunting and fishing trips. There is only one reason to come to our show and that is to book a Canadian hunting and fishing trip. This (St. Charles) has been our strongest show the past 25 years."
Cegielski said lodge and resort owners come from around Canada, with Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwest Ontario being the most popular, along with the Northwest Territories and British Columbia also being represented this year.
"This show gives you the chance to meet face-to-face with lodge owners," he said. "You're able to connect with the owners and get that sense of security because you made that connection and friendship with the owners prior to the trip."
The show features a customer service booth where All-Canada staff will offer insights on a plethora of topics, including border crossing and even what questions to ask booth owners.
"As a brand-new traveler to Canada, probably the top questions are border crossing, how to get to lodges, how remote will the lodge be, and budget also is a huge topic," said Cegielski. "Our show offers a wide range of budget trips from $500 a week to $5,000 a week. Sitting down with attendees and breaking down their different expectations of a Canadian trip typically steers them pretty clearly in one direction or another. The big things are the travel and then it comes down to budget.
"You will be overwhelmed if you think you will talk to 150 lodges. Hopefully the customer service booth will steer you in the right direction and get you headed the right way. Our number one job is to be there and answer questions so you can book that Canadian vacation."
All-Canada has an action-packed four days in store for show-goers. A number of free seminars will be held, including ones by headliners Jim Crowley of Hook & Hunt TV and Canadian hunting and fishing expert Norm "The Great" McCreight, who among other topics will discuss how to fillet a Canadian walleye with a double-bitted ax.
Also returning is the Labatt Lounge, where guests can sit and enjoy refreshments while planning their Canadian adventure; the All-Canada Show photo booth for Canadian selfies and social-media interactions; a Canadian border-crossing display and interactions with Anthony J. Padgett, rated as one of the top 10 wildlife artists in the United States. On the cuisine front, an authentic Canadian shore lunch (walleye fillet, potatoes, rye bread and coleslaw), a staple of the event, will be sold for an extra fee in the concession area.
Three Canadian fishing trips will be given away in addition to the grand-prize trip for four to Anderson's Lodge in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Anderson's specializes in Canadian walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, lake trout and musky fishing trips. An admission ticket qualifies show-goers for the grand-prize drawing.
Additionally, anyone who books a Canadian vacation at the St. Charles show becomes eligible to have it paid for by All-Canada in its "You Book It, We Buy It" promotion (up to $2,000 in value).
On opening night Thursday, every show guest will receive a free Eppinger Dardevle 2018 collector lure. Throughout the show, kids 17 and younger will receive the same 3/4-oz. collector lure during all show hours. There also will be a kids area with interactive games and displays during show hours.