WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | The inaugural Youth Sports Expo was a hit Saturday at the Porter County Expo Center, organizers said.
More than 50 vendors — including the Valparaiso YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Pop Warner, martial arts studios, running clubs, and paintball and archery camps — provided information on youth sports programs. Sporting goods vendors, such as Blythe’s Sporting Goods and Hoosier Bat Co., also offered equipment for sale.
Expo center interim Director Ken Blaney and Lisa Baisden, administrative assistant, began planning the event in August.
“We wanted to bring people together for networking and to let kids know what to sign up for,” Blaney said.
Baisden said the expo center normally plans only a few “minor” events throughout the year.
Staff members decided they didn’t have to “wait around” for other organizations to book events at the center, Blaney said.
“The expo center is a huge asset for the county,” Blaney said. “We realized we have this resource at the tip of our fingers to put on events ourselves.”
Blaney credited Baisden, who has a degree in sports management from Valparaiso University, with the majority of the planning.
“It was a great fit, with my business background and her sports background,” Blaney said.
Kids tested their golfing, archery and batting skills at demonstration booths.
Abbey Vargas, 12, teed up at Creekside Golf Course’s booth.
“I’ve played mini golf before, but not real golf,” Abbey said. “I did pretty bad. I’m more of a driving range person.”
Dawson Walsh, 14, of Griffith, tried archery for the first time.
“I popped two balloons,” Dawson said of the balloons tied to targets.
Dawson’s mom, Kathie Bixeman, who had nine children in tow for the day, said she thought the mid-winter event was a good opportunity to get out of the house.
“I’d come back again,” Bixeman said. “But maybe with another adult.”
Jory Mattull, of Crown Point, said the event was “great if you have kids in sports.”
“I like that the prizes they can win get the kids active,” Mattull said. “Indiana needs more of that.”
Blaney said he expected about 1,500 people to attend the event, which continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.