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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Outdoors: KC sports shows, past and present

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  • The Kansas City Sports Show returned to Bartle Hall this weekend. Do you remember the early boat, sport and travel shows?
    During the 1960's and early 1970's, the show was held in the old Municipal Auditorium. Basically the format was the same except a circus was included for the admission price.
    This was quite a circus. Everyone carried bags full of free brochures into the auditorium and watched high wire acts, lion tamers and other circus-type stuff. I mostly enjoyed some of the outdoor-oriented extras.
    For example, a muzzled wrestling bear took on brave souls from the audience. If my memory serves correctly, a reward was offered to anyone who could pin the bear.
    Most people were not willing or anxious to roll around with an 800 pound bruin, but three or four burley men usually stepped forward and accepted the challenge and then defeat — the bear was darned good.
    My friend, whom I will not mention by name, was an extremely strong man who just knew he could pin the bear. This bulk of a man decided he was going to out wrestle his hairy opponent and no doubt be the first to do so.
    He told me that a wrestling promoter would hear of his victory and offer him a big, fat wrestling contract to take on other humans.
    He started training weeks before the show. He pumped iron and really bulked up creating a challenge for most men — and perhaps even a bear.
    He even ran two miles a day to increase stamina required for taking on a magnificent beast. He told me, “The plan is to kick some bear booty.”
    Finally the big evening came. Evidently the he-men of Kansas City stayed home that night, my friend was the only one to step forward to this challenge.
    The match started as most do, both opponents looked each other over a bit before clenching in the mat's center. My friend sort of disappeared in the bear's grasp.
    The bear was manhandling my friend by tossing him from one paw to the other. The bear was having a great time. Then it happened.
    My friend broke away from the bear, doubled up his fist and hit him with all strength available in the chest, backed up and kicked the old bruin in the groin.
    The large crowd groaned and the bear's owner said, “Boy, you really shouldn't have done that, I think you made him mad, not a very smart thing to do.”
    And then a grumbling started and quickly grew louder. Really it wasn't grumbling but the sound  of an extremely angry bear growling through his muzzle. The huge animal's beady eyes narrowed with an apparent look of real hatred.
    Page 2 of 3 - My friend got the feeling that it was time to concede and started looking for a way to escape.
    The bear grabbed my strong friend before he could get out of there, threw him on the mat and belly flopped on the befuddled tough guy. The crowd groaned.
    My friend's eyes bugged out and he clearly thought the end was near. Then the still angry bear started rolling back and forth on my friend, who by now had lost the desire to fight a bear.
    Fortunately the trainer and 15 or 20 other guys finally dragged the flabbergasted bear off my well tenderized buddy. He actually started talking two or three hours later, saying things like bear, goo, gap or some other things I could not understand.
    That was the last bear-wresting act they ever held in the auditorium. I am sure the insurance companies refused to insure the bear act after my buddy went a step too far.
    Then there was the native American who actually climbed to the auditorium's top seats by the big wall clock and shot arrows down several stories to the target at center stage with the greatest accuracy. He was an archery master.
    I attended one evening to watch this bow master. He climbed the steep steps while another act was performing.
    The audience suddenly become aware of where he was shooting from when the house lights were turned down and the spotlight centered on him with his bow and arrow fully drawn.
    The ring master announced what he was going to do and a great deal of mumbling could be heard from the backside of the stage.
    People behind the target suddenly realized that one of them would become a shish-ka-bob if he missed. Suddenly a woman and two men jumped up and started running up the auditorium stairs.
    Three others followed and evidently their feet became tangled and they all fell down in a heap, sliding back down the stairs. The archer released his arrow about that time and it struck the target dead center.
    Red faced, the shaken people walked up the steps, no doubt embarrassed and bruised.  
    The old Sports Show was fun, but I wonder if anyone ever beat that bear?
    The Kansas City Sports Show is different today. Unfortunately, most people never get the full benefit of this unique show.
    But the show is an excellent chance for you to improve your outdoor sports knowledge. Most booths are run by experts in their fields. For example, a man selling crappie tackle would know a great deal about catching winter crappie so ask a lot of questions.
    Game and fish departments are great sources of information about the wildlife your pursue. They will actually show you map locations for good hunting or fishing.
    Page 3 of 3 - Finally there are always special features, thousands of outdoor products and other entertaining elements to make the show worth visiting.
    I never miss the show, sort of my own tradition to visit with old friends. This is an excellent winter destination if you love to hunt, fish or do other outdoor activities.
    The show is a great help for conquering spring fever, especially during this crummy winter.
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