Source & Photos: Macon.com
The Great Outdoors Show at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter had lots of booths for the dedicated outdoors enthusiast: hunting, fishing, boating, camping and so forth.
It also had a booth for swamp people.
In this case, it was the stars of the History Channel’s reality series, “Swamp People,” as well as the long lines of people eager for autographs and pictures.
Stars R.J. Molinere Jr. and his son Jay Paul Molinere were in Perry for the entire weekend to greet fans of the show, which will coincidentally premiere its third season Thursday night on the History Channel. The series follows the real-life adventures of the Molineres and other Cajun families who live in the Atchafalaya River Basin swamp in Louisiana and hunt alligators for a living.
“This is the first time we’ve been to this particular show,” said Stacy Molinere, R.J.’s wife and Jay Paul’s mother, who also serves as their manager. “We were invited to come here. This has been a great show, one of the best shows we’ve had. … The people here are very nice and very friendly. Everybody here knows about the show — even the kids. They can’t wait for the new episodes to air.”
Conner McLendon, age 6, drove with his mom Kim from Hawkinsville to see the Molineres.
“I like how they catch the gators!” he exclaimed, after getting the Molineres’ autographs.
Alden and Katie Martin, of Perry, have attended the show for years, but said it was meeting the “Swamp People” that proved the main draw this year.
“I like how they make their living off the land,” said Katie Martin, while holding her 4-year-old daughter, Autumn. “They’re regular people who have become big stars. To me, they’re more important than (celebrities) like Lindsay Lohan.”
Alden Martin said he’s so familiar with The Great Outdoors Show from having attended so long, that he pretty much knows where every booth is going to be set up.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some new offerings at the show, however.
Shane Morgan set up a booth for the first time to sell the wildlife and outdoors paintings done by his father, Billy. Since the Morgans don’t have a permanent display store and sell the art online, the show was an opportunity to introduce the artwork to a wider public.
“It’s a perfect theme, since he does wildlife art,” Shane Morgan said of his father. “We’ve moved a lot of artwork this weekend. We did very well.”
Morgan credited having the “Swamp People” moving to a nearby display table Saturday as giving his booth a big boost, because many of the attendees decided to check out other booths in the building rather than wait in the long lines to meet the Molineres.
“When they put the ‘Swamp People’ in this building, that’s when it got overwhelming for us,” Morgan said. “It was a tremendous help for us. I probably owe them a painting.”
Show director Doug Rithmire said The Great Outdoors Show usually draws 15,000 to 18,000 to its annual show, which has been held every year in February since the fairgrounds opened. He said this year’s event had nearly 200 exhibitors, and has probably been their most successful show in the past five years.
“I’d say it was for two reasons,” he said. “The economy is going up, and having the ‘Swamp People’ was a very good draw.”