The fifth annual Sportsman’s Fest will be held Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene in Moravia with doors opening at 11:30 a.m.
According to event coordinator Chuck Riggenbach, the free event grew out of an older event, an annual wild game feed, that was held at the church. Riggenbach said that when the man who organized the original event moved to Texas, he asked Riggenbach to take over and the pastor had ideas about how to expand the event.
“Basically a bunch of guys was coming in, bringing weird stuff and daring somebody else to eat it,” said Riggenbach.
That has evolved into a miniature deer classic over the last five years according to Riggenbach. Attendance has also grown exponentially from around 30-40 people each year to about 500. Two years ago almost 700 people attended.
The wild game feed hasn’t been lost though and is still a part of the overall event. This year the feed will be serving cougar and bobcat among other more exotic game animals. Organizers do ask for a free will donation for the meal, but overall the event is free, including the speakers, all the contests and the prize drawings.
Any money collected goes to pay for the event and anything left over is put into a scholarship pool that is also contributed to by the church. A scholarship is given out each year and is open to people outside the church. Riggenbach said it has been given out to students in four or five different counties now.
The event is seen as outreach to the community and a way to provide an interesting and fun experience in southeast Iowa that otherwise wouldn’t be available unless someone was able to travel to Des Moines or another area for an event like the Iowa Deer Classic.
The planning is always ongoing and Riggenbach said they are already talking about speakers for next year. In total he said it takes 35-40 volunteers to put on the event.
The fifth Sportsman’s Fest is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and will feature a large area of vendors as well as a large display of mounts, including many African animal mounts. A silent auction will run until 2 p.m. and will be offering such items as a trail camera, Nikon binoculars and a Larry Zach print.
Although the schedule is not completely set in stone, the hot donut eating contest should begin around 12:30 p.m. with the turkey calling contest to follow. Each will feature four divisions with prizes. The wild game feed will be held from 11:30-2 p.m. and a youth bow shoot with boys and girls divisions will also be held. Bows will be provided.
A turkey hunting seminar will take place after the turkey calling contest and Riggenbach said it should begin around 1:15 p.m. It will be presented by Outdoors Dan. The featured speaker, Jason Cruse, will follow and begin sometime between 2-2:30 p.m. Cruse is a published author, founder of Mission Media and Resource Group and the host of Spring Chronicles on the Sportsman Channel.
The last event will be the drawing for the grand prize giveaway of a Mossberg 715T .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle at around 3 p.m. The drawing is free to enter but you must be present to win.