J.T. Snyder, of Hannah (top), and Noah Mathias, of LaPorte, give archery a try during the Youth Sports Expo at the Porter County Expo Center Feb. 23, 2013. | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media
For more on events at the
Porter County Expo Center, call 464-0133; go to www.indianadunes.com/expo-center; or find the center on Facebook.
Sports of all sorts were up for display during the first Youth Sports Expo, recently held at the Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso.
In all, 53 vendors, including merchandisers, purveyors of sports medicine, and everything from ball clubs to the soapbox derby, set up booths for the event, held Feb. 23 and 24. The expo also included seminars on dealing with sports injuries, team fundraising, and college recruiting, as well as demo areas for kids to try their hands at tumbling and other activities.
Ken Blaney, the expo center’s interim director, said he noticed similar events being held in other places shortly after he started the job in late August.
“I decided, why don’t we put something on that’s good for the community?” he said. “Sports are a very big thing for youth.”
So, with the help of administrative assistant Lisa Setzler, who has a background in playing sports, as well as a degree in sports management and marketing, he put together the expo, a family-friendly event timed for when parents start thinking about spring and summer sports programs for their kids.
“It’s a one-stop shop for parents,” Setzler said, adding the expo also offered information on martial arts, paintball and other activities that may not pop up on the radar.
The expo gave vendors the chance to network as well.
“There aren’t too many times you get this many people in a room and they can bounce ideas off each other,” Blaney said.
The sports expo was a wonderful way to support kids in the community, said Kyle Eichelberg, who’s owned Excel Martial Arts in Valparaiso for more than two years.
“I think it’s great that everybody is here together for the kids, and I think getting youth involved in things — martial arts, baseball, football, whatever it is — is going to be advantageous to the kids,” he said.
Bob Schaffer, founder of the Bullseye Bombers Junior Olympic Archery Development program, said the sports expo has tremendous potential.
“I think the event is going to be big, I really do, because it’s bringing all the sports together,” he said, as kids tried to hit bullseyes at his booth. “If kids like something, they can try it out. That makes a big difference.”