Mom always said to not run with scissors. But does that rule include paddling kayaks?

Jim Solomon and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney cut the ceremonial ribbon at the Montana Outdoor Recreation Expo on Friday morning while both were sitting in coupled kayaks, a very Montana beginning to a day all about outdoor education and the Montana way of life.

The Expo is happening at the Missoula County Fairgrounds through Sunday and the only cost to enter is a can of food per person, which the Expo is donating to the Missoula Food Bank and Bitterroot Haven House.

Activities range from bear spray training to elk calling and rock climbing as well as archery exhibitions and a game called archery tag, “where you can shoot your best friend with a bow and arrow,” according to Solomon.

Solomon, the head of the Expo, is a Cherry Creek Radio host by trade and a person deeply passionate about the outdoors.

Raised in Phoenix, Solomon always was fascinated by the magazines about the outdoors, like Field and Stream.

He came to Montana because of a National Geographic special on the Craighead brothers' work with grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. Wearing a blue plaid shirt and jeans with a Cabela’s hat, Solomon was exuberant as he explained the reasons he had set up the Expo, mainly “to get people educated in the outdoors and to teach them to be self-reliant.”

Cooney said the Expo was “celebrating recreation opportunities in Montana” and the outdoors that make them available. “We’re lucky,” Cooney said, “just outside our back doors are incredible public lands that belong to all of us.”

Cooney also held up the outdoors as a major driver of the Montana economy, quoting some 64,000 jobs related to recreation and some 11 million visitors to Montana, as well as $6 billion from outdoor recreation industries.

With such massive amounts of people and money involved in the Montana outdoors, Cooney said “Let’s advertise it!” — which is why the Expo is happening this weekend.

Vendors from all over the West are coming to the Expo. Wayne Carlton is an “outdoor legend,” according to Solomon, and traveled to Missoula from Montrose, Colorado, for this weekend’s Expo. Wearing cowboy boots and a belt buckle made from the antler of a bull elk, Carlton looks like the ultimate outdoorsman.

Carlton is an elk call designer and maker and was an early pioneer of calling elk with turkey callers. He demonstrated his prowess in the empty ice rink at the fairgrounds, giving lifelike calls with the ease of an old pro, and filling the rink with the sounds of bugling.

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