My amazing journey in the fishing industry has taken me to some awesome places and has allowed me to meet many exceptional people. I can’t really explain how all these great experiences have fallen into my lap, but I’m certainly not going to complain or analyze it too much.
I had the great honor this week of being part of yet another event that had me mixing it up with some of the greatest people in the outdoor industry, as well as getting a first-hand look at the largest, most impressive fish and wildlife museum in the world – the Wonders of Wildlife Museum.
More Than a Museum
I’ve been to many museums in my life. Some of them more impressive than others, but for the most part they all were linked in that their main focus was showcasing items of historical importance.
Obviously, preserving items of historical value is an important role of museums, and the Wonders of Wildlife Museum certainly takes this role seriously when it comes to the history of the Great Outdoors. However, the Wonders of Wildlife takes it a step further.
With growing urban areas and technology pulling more people away from outdoor activities, the museum is designed to not only showcase the history of fishing, hunting and outdoor conservation, but also to exhibit the natural world that still exists in an organic and exciting way that you can find nowhere else today.
In my mind, the Wonders of Wildlife does the outdoor industry a great service by making the natural world we love, and the history of those who fought for its preservation, accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t experience it.
One Heck of a Party
On our drive to Springfield, Mo., my wife and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. We hadn’t heard much about the details of the event – all we knew was that it was a “big deal” and that it was a suit-and-tie affair.
The Wonders of Wildlife is built right into the side of the original Bass Pro Shops, and when we arrived we were amazed at the event facilities that were erected in the parking lot.
Once inside, we understood the gravity of the occasion, and I immediately found myself surrounded by all of the biggest players in outdoor business and sport.
We were quickly directed into the museum, where everyone remained in a state of wonder and awe during their time navigating the vast and diverse exhibits and aquariums.Our tour ended in a portion of the museum that served as a dining area for the attendees. Epic acrobatic and musical performances set the tone for the affair.
Once directed outside to the temporary amphitheater, we sat down, and the rest of the night consisted of a parade of legends from many walks of life – actors, former Presidents, conservation leaders, business leaders and the like. All who took the stage shared stories of their admiration for Johnny Morris, his conservation efforts, and the merits of the museum.
When it was time for the ribbon-cutting, many of the industry’s finest were directed to the stage for a group photo. I was honored to be part of it, and it was such a huge privilege to get my picture taken with such a great group of sportsmen.
The event was capped off with some of today’s top country music stars circled around a campfire on the massive stage, singing some of their hits, and some songs that had personal significance to them relating to the event’s theme.
It was truly an impressive and spectacular event, and I am especially grateful that my wife was allowed to enjoy it by my side, which made it even that much more special.
Originally this event was just another part of my job as host of Sweetwater, but I can honestly say that I left Springfield with a renewed perspective on my responsibilities as an ambassador of the sport.
The event wasn’t simply about an opening of a museum or an aquarium, but rather it was about celebrating and acknowledging the conservation efforts of exceptional people.
Being there to witness stories from people such as Kevin Costner, Presidents Carter and George W. Bush, and Johnny Morris himself, I realized that I need to reassess my career priorities to keep conservation at the top of the list.
It was clear to me by the end of the night that all of the people I admire so much kept conservation a priority, which is exactly why I’m able to enjoy the sport that I love today.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an aspiring tour pro and co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).