GUTHRIE — The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and a coalition of conservation organizations, agencies and sponsors have come together to present Oklahomans with an annual Wildlife Expo Program.
The expo, which began Friday and continues through Sunday, runs 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at the Lazy E Arena, southeast of Guthrie. There is no admission or parking charge.
“This is a way to expose Oklahomans to the nature and wildlife that surrounds them,” said Mike Chrisman, wildlife information officer and volunteer organizer.
Chrisman said last year's three-day event was attended by about 55,000 people.
The Department of Wildlife Conservation dedicated the first day of the expo to children, who came on school field trips.
Chrisman said that on Saturday and Sunday, mostly families or a mixture of adults and children will attend, although participation is open to everyone for all three days.
“If children come as part of a school field trip, a parent has to accompany them,” said Jesse Tordillo, a teacher's assistant at Bishop Public School in Lawton. “It's a nice way to encourage family involvement.”
Tordillo accompanied her son, Kekoa Tordillo, 10, who said his favorite part of the trip was kayaking in the expo's indoor water pool and learning about the animal species native to Oklahoma.
“We are from Hawaii, so this is all very new to us,” Jesse Tordillo said.
“It's really educational.”
In addition to kayaking, the expo offers participants the chance to try archery, fishing, knot tying and arts and crafts.
Educational seminars regarding Oklahoma wildlife also are offered.
Sponsors and participating organizations that have booths in and outside of the arena offer participants the chance to learn about hunting, shooting, wildlife species and traditional cooking.
Nestled outside near a pond where children learn how to fish, members of Heartland of the Prairie Dutch Oven Society's Guthrie branch showed onlookers how to use a Dutch oven to cook everything from Mississippi mud pie to duck stew.
“It's a lost art,” club member Lorri Lyn said.
“Dutch ovens are old cast-iron pots that pioneers would bring with them while traveling across trails. They're hundreds of years old, but still perfectly good to cook with.”
This year, members of Heartland of the Prairie Dutch Oven Society are giving out fresh cinnamon rolls.
Also present at this year's expo is the Oklahoma Predator Hunters Association.
Club Chairman Jeffrey Holly said the organization aims to bring awareness to hunting and Oklahoma's wildlife population.
“Some people automatically think hunting is a bad thing. But we don't hunt just to kill,” Holly said.
Holly said that some of the hunting that the organization engages in helps to even out the population of threatening species.
The hunted animals' remains are often given to museums that use them as teaching tools.
In addition, Holly said, the Oklahoma Wildlife Department is funded predominately by hunters.
“This isn't just about hunting. We want to bring people who usually stay inside outside,” Holly said.
“Some of these kids have never been able to shoot a bow and arrow or catch a fish. Exposing them to these activities at such a young age is important; it could spark an interest that will last them a lifetime.”
Joseph Douglas, 10, from All Saints Catholic School in Broken Arrow caught his first fish at the expo.
“It was fun and amazing, and I couldn't believe it,” Douglas said.
Natalie Barton, 9, who asked her stepmother to accompany her to the expo for her school's field trip, said her favorite part of the expo was necklace making and learning how to hook a bait fish.
Natalie's stepmother, Angie Barton, said the expo has brought the two closer together.
“It's a good bonding opportunity. We have been talking about it all week,” Barton said.
Taste of the Wild
One popular attraction at the expo is the Taste of the Wild booth sponsored by the Oklahoma Wildlife Department.
Volunteer Chef, Bob Wichers said he's been making his legendary fried catfish since he can remember.
The fried catfish and buffalo chili seemed to be favorites among participants.
“All of this can be made right here in Oklahoma,” said Mark Hannah, Wildlife Department game warden and Taste of the Wild volunteer.
“In just about every county in Oklahoma, you can fish for catfish.”
If you go: Wildlife expo
• Saturday: 8 a.m.
to 6 p.m.
• Sunday: 8 a.m. to
• Information: To learn more, go to www.wildlife