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East Texas Farm, Ranch and Wildlife Expo Debuts

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Event Deemed Success

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – The Inaugural East Texas Farm, Ranch and Wildlife Expo opened bright and early on Friday morning, Sept. 13, at the Crockett Civic Center and according to those in attendance, the event was a success.

Vendors were set up throughout the grounds as well as inside the civic center, while demonstrations were going on and seminars were being held. 

The event was the brainchild of Dan Huggins, the Executive Director of the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce. During a break in the day’s activities, Huggins took time to discuss the event    

“Three years ago, we moved from Abilene. I was on the Board of Directors for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce for a number of years. In Abilene, they do a big West Texas Farm, Ranch and Wildlife Expo,” Huggins said.

When Huggins became the executive director of the chamber in September of 2018, he said he did some research and wanted to see if the expo might have a chance to work behind the pine curtain.

“In West Texas, it’s hugely successful. It has grown to a two-day event with thousands of people. I said if West Texas can do it, well why not here? You know we have a lot of cattle people in East Texas. We have a lot of people who love wildlife. Why not try and do an event right here and make it the East Texas (expo). I want it to be more than just Crockett. I want it to be more than Houston County. I want it to be East Texas,” Huggins said.

The chamber director said the first year event attracted 19 vendors and 12 sponsors, “… along with several who have had booths. I was more than pleased. When I started contacting people about being sponsors, I got very few no’s.”  

During the morning’s first session, Huggins said he counted at least 150 people and estimated well over 200 had attended the expo by lunchtime.

As far as the educational aspects of the event, Huggins explained he turned that over to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“They do that and they do that well. I wanted to have them be the experts. I’m just Dan. I’m a quasi-rancher.  I know what is important to me but on a large scale, what is going to attract people? I think they picked some great topics. The wild hog management topic this morning was huge.”

Asked specifically if he felt this could become an annual event, Huggins replied, “We are calling this the Inaugural East Texas Farm, Ranch and Wildlife Expo so the answer, especially with the turnout today, is yes. What I want to do is grow it. I want to get people from Tyler. I want to get people from Huntsville. I want to get people from Palestine and Grapeland. I want to keep getting the word out. Of course, it’s a (chamber of commerce) board decision in the end, but any time you have a successful event – especially the first time out – to me this has been hugely successful. It exceeded my expectations.”         

Also at the expo was Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent Jo Smith who said several months ago, she had been approached by Huggins to help with educational aspects of the event.

“Abilene has hosted a West Texas Farm, Ranch and Wildlife Expo. He wanted to bring the same education and opportunity to East Texas. Partnering with him through the AgriLife Extension, we thought it would be a great opportunity. We are very proud of how today has turned out,” Smith said.

Asked what all went into the Expo Smith said there were educational classes all day as well as opportunities to visit with the vendors and sponsors at the civic center.

As far as the classes, Smith said the day started off with a seminar on wild pig management led by Dr. John Tomecek, assistant professor and extension wildlife specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“Then,” Smith added, “We did external parasite control for cattle and nuisance animal trapping. This afternoon we will do two sessions on aquatic weed management. We will also do winter feeding and supplements for your cattle as well as hopefully how to make money in the cow business.”  

When asked if she hoped this would become an annual event, Smith said, “Absolutely! We hope this is a continuation we will continue to do every year. We had a great turnout this year. I’m very pleased with the support, not only from the vendors and sponsors, but from the producers in the community. Yes, we would very much like to continue this and make it an annual event.”     

In regard to the sponsors, Smith said there were “… a variety of sponsors and vendors from feed stores to equipment dealers. We had a lot of support from the community. Businesses from across the county and across the city (Crockett) have come out.”

Sponsors of the event included: Crockett Farm and Fuel; the Houston County Electric Co-Op; Capital Farm Credit; Houston County Equipment; South Pine Animal Hospital; East Texas Livestock; the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC); 92.7 KIVY Radio; the Houston County Courier; and El Dorado Agricultural Products.        

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.