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Elmwood outdoors show benefits local athletics

March 05, 2011 at 12:06 AM

Peoria Journal-Star

Row after row of deer heads are set up against plywood, nailed into place with a small sign below them.

Straight ahead, several booths display their wares, with signs reading “Not Made in China.” Walkie-talkies continuously go off, requesting more information on when the live deer are going to arrive.

It’s a pretty unusual scene for a high school gymnasium.

The second annual Elmwood All Outdoors Show was setting up on Friday night for its Saturday morning opening. The show, which will be at Elmwood High School, features craftsman, collectors and nature enthusiasts from around the country, with more than 130 vendors.

Jeff Lampe, the organizer of the event, was inspired by similar shows in Tinley Park. He came up with the event as a way to raise money for Elmwood High School athletics in a way that could be beneficial for the community as well.

“We wanted to find a way to give money to the athletics and to the athletes without dipping into our own pockets,” he said. “If you sell candy bars or something, the whole town just ends up paying for it. This way, we get people to come in, set up and help us raise money and we’re able to put the town out there.”

Making the show easier on the school is having students volunteer time to not only set up the event, but to help vendors bring their goods into the makeshift show area.

“I’ve been here all day,” said sophomore John Forney, one of the nearly 100 students volunteers. “I’ll be here all day (Saturday), too, helping out the vendors and making sure everyone’s happy and ready to go.”

A high school gymnasium is a pretty unusual place for this kind of show, with vendors setting up their booths against locker rooms, and school officials were initially resistant to the idea until last year’s show finished.

“The first one went well,” Lampe said. “Initially, we didn’t know what to expect. It’s not easy to get the administrators to give up their school for the weekend but all together with the boosters, we ended up giving them more than $28,000.”

This success of last year’s show allowed this year’s to expand as well as be affordable for every one. Along with the vendors, there will be nearly 140 deer heads, a fishing pool and archery range for children, raffles and speakers. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 13 and younger.

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