If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck

With its focus on the outdoors and location next to the Delaware River, so too was last Saturday's "Sportsmen's Expo" not very unlike a full blown community river festival in the making.

Held under an overcast but gratefully rain free sky, dozens of booths offering fishing and hunting gear, souvenirs, taxidermy and clothing were joined by those promoting various causes and community groups.  At their flanks a 2,500 gallon fish tank and fascinating presentation with rescued birds of prey drew much attention.   Over here a chain saw sculpture artist's carved wooden bears drew their own crowd and over there a man sat patiently crafting his hand-made lures.  Filling the air with attention getting aromas, a permanent food concession stand prepared reliable favorites and nearby vendor trucks provided even more.   Four miles distant, the highest point in the State of New Jersey framed the grand scene as a paved river walk edging along the flowing water below opened vistas into the ancient valley bearing the name of the river that helped to create it.   Watching it all from on high, the city's towering scenic overlook with its many recreational trails and plentiful water resources confidently guarded the rear.  Meandering throughout, a respectable, steady crowd of families and interested others took their time about taking it all in.

Meanwhile, just a short way over an adjoining railroad crossing, the main downtown business district was deceptively quiet.   But on closer look something was clearly happening.   Evidence of newly poured concrete at the superbly renamed  "River Walk" mini-mall along with recent infrastructure upgrades, a gutted building undergoing complete rehab, and another well on its way to becoming a craft beer gastro-pub told a different story.   Like a hibernating catepillar shedding its husk to become a butterfly, a remarkable transformation of Front Street is plainly underway.   To be sure, such a Port Jervis revival is by no means the first.  What sets this latest surge apart is not only the substantial infusion of new money, but also a deep commitment to making such investments of cash, time, know-how and sweat equity achieve long term success.   Whether these impressive efforts will stand the all-important test of time remains to be seen.   Yet just as the historic event on the banks of the Delaware stir hope for a genuine river festival of its own, there is increasingly good reason to believe cautious optimism may soon give way to more than just hope that the encouraging changes now taking root in Port Jervis will be lasting and flourishing ones.

A key organizer of the Sportsmen's Expo, Maria "The Gun Lady" Mann credited the almost 25 years she has run her firearms business in downtown Port Jervis as a reason why so many vendors
took part in the historic outing.   Sponsored by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Mann reported the organization called their annual gathering the largest it had seen. 
Fish in a 2,500 gallon tank appear to float in front of one of Riverside Park's basketball hoops.  
The aptly named "hawg trough," used to demonstrate fishing techniques and gear, drew plenty of keen onlookers.
In someplaces finding adequate parking may frequently be a challenge but that was no problem at the expo as vacant land along
the railroad tracks near Riverside Park provided ample, conveniently located spaces for all of its many visiting and local guests.
Expressing his joy and sense of wonder, a young lad pokes his head through a cutout display set up especially for photo opportunities like this one.
Hundreds of guests, including some of the four legged variety, enjoyed browsing and shopping at the expo's dozens of vendor booths.
Working hard to promote newly opened trails in the city's watershed park and recreation area,
the Outdoor Club of Port Jervis was one of several local groups that participated in the day's activities.
Enjoying a leisurely Saturday afternoon ride, a bicyclist cruises along the park's river walk bordering the event's staging area. 
In the background the Mid-Delaware bridge joining Port Jervis with Matamoras, its Pennsylvania neighbor on the opposite shore, makes its presence known.
Starting his presentation with an American kestrel, the smallest and most common American falcon, zoologist and founder of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center, Bill Streeter,
quickly moved on to larger examples of his feathered friends while a packed bleacher of interested guests enjoyed his fast moving and informative talk.
Eager to share his story, Pinebush, NY, lure maker, Bob Ewald, expressed enthusiasm for nature related public school education programs
like those his recently deceased friend, Port Jervis science teacher and noted lifelong conservationist, Phil Chase, would have also favored.

Among the military and law enforcement represented at the expo was this U.S. Marine
lending a potential future recruit a helping hand as he gave the pull-up bar a try.
 


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