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Outdoors Expo Returns To State Fairgrounds Feb. 28-March 2

So what's an Outdoors Exposition?

It's sort of a world's fair for anglers, boaters, hunters, campers and all who enjoy getting off the city streets and out into the woods and waters of the Sunshine State and points beyond. The heart of Frank Sargeant's Outdoors Expo since its beginning 12 years ago has been the "Sportsman's' University", a curriculum of more than 50 how-to seminars, clinics and workshops at four different locations around the 20,000 square foot expo halls and surrounding grounds at the Florida State Fair Grounds. The Mercury Marine Casting Pond and the famed Bass Tub giant aquarium offer unique close-up looks at expert techniques-with the fish themselves the final judges. And for those who want to teach Rover a few new tricks, there's no better way to get started than a visit to the Chesagrove/Devore Labs training plaza, where expert dog handlers hold continuous seminars Saturday and Sunday. The show is also a giant shopping mall, offering everything from boats and motors to 2003 sport utes, sporting art, outdoors clothing, and every imaginable type of fishing, hunting and camping gear. Many vendors offer special show packages and discounts, allowing visitors to gear up for the entire year at reasonable cost.

There are also lots of outfitters offering adventure trips anywhere from southern Alabama to northern Alaska. Added family activities plus free admission on Friday, courtesy of Ford Motor Company, now makes it easier for families with children to spend quality time at the show. The kids fishing derbies, presented by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and sponsored by West Marine, are always a hit with the youngsters--and with moms and dads who get to help land the fish. Kiddy kayaks and the climbing wall are also popular with kids. Last but not least, this year's show offers a chance to meet some of the celebrities of the outdoors world, including television angler Roland Martin and famed Tampa Bay Bucs running back Mike Alstott, now part of the Triton Fishing Team. (Alstott’s scheduled times TBA pending commitments after the Super Bowl.)

In short, there's so much to see and do that most folks find a full day is scarcely enough to take it all in. Admission is free on Friday, $6 Saturday and Sunday for ages 13 and up, $3 for kids 4-12. Parking fee at the fairgrounds is $5. Show hours are 1-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. -8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. -5 p.m. Sunday. The fairgrounds are located east of Tampa at the intersection of I-4 and U.S. 301. For added information, the public can call the Tampa Tribune Event Hotline at (813) 259-8130 or visit http://promos.tbo.com/sargeant2003/. For added information, contact Fran Solomon, Exec. Director, Tampa Tribune Productions, (813) 259-7376. For interviews with Frank Sargeant, call (813) 645-4334 or email
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