Keep The Arrows In The Air
Tue, 03/07/2023 - 1:39pm caleb
6th annual Fred Bear Day event in Grayling features a variety of activities on Friday through Sunday, March 3-5
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Hundreds of people celebrated the legacy of Fred Bear and the sport of archery during a weekend of activities in Grayling on March 3-5.
In 1999, the City of Grayling (Mayor Ralph Stephens) proclaimed March 5 – Bear’s birthday – as Fred Bear Day. In 2018, organizers created an annual Fred Bear Day celebration in Grayling, and the event has been growing ever since.
(Bear – a well-known sportsman and archery pioneer – was born on March 5 in 1902 and he passed away in 1988. His archery company was located in Grayling from 1947-1978, Fred Bear Day organizers said.)
This year’s 6th annual Fred Bear Day got underway with a Meet and Greet at Tinker’s Junction on Friday, March 3.
Tom Jenkins, Vice President of Fred Bear Day Inc. and co-founder of the celebration, said the Meet and Greet went well.
“I heard everyone had a good time,” Jenkins said.
On Saturday, March 4, Fred Bear Day featured a Sportsman Tradeshow at Kirtland Community College. The event was open to the public, did not have an admission charge, and had strong turnout, organizers said.
“I was there all day,” Jenkins said. “The inside of the place was wall to wall with collectibles and memorabilia.”
“The buy, sell, and trade show, we figure we had at least 400 people come through looking to buy items,” said John Wejrowski, Fred Bear Day Inc. President (and co-founder of the celebration).
Bear’s Den Pizzeria – a local restaurant filled with Fred Bear displays – hosted a Pre-Glow Get Together on Saturday evening. Jenkins said he was not able to be at the event, but his wife, Sharron, attended.
“She said the place was jam packed,” Jenkins said.
For Bear’s birthday on Sunday, March 5, the celebration featured a 21 Whistling Arrow Salute at the former site of Bear Archery in Grayling.
Jenkins said there were 100 people in line (plus two event organizers) vying for the opportunity to be one of the 21 shooters.
“I believe we had 102 shooters,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said every year more and more people come to the 21 Whistling Arrow Salute.
“That was my plan from the beginning, to have slow growth,” Jenkins said. “That’s the way it’s been building.”
Organizers auctioned off the first of the 21 custom-made arrows.
“It was exciting,” Jenkins said. “It was a great fundraiser.”
Linda Steger of California had the winning bid ($500) for the first arrow. Steger let Gavin Wagner of Toledo, Ohio take the salute shot with the arrow. Wagner said he was honored.
“I thought I was shaking because of the cold, but I realized I wasn’t cold,” Wagner said. “It was amazing. It was a great feeling.”
Wagner said he’s been coming up to the area for years because his family has a cabin in Luzerne.
Steger is one of Fred Bear’s granddaughters. She said this year was her second time coming to Fred Bear Day, and it was special because her sisters were there, too.
“This is the first time all four sisters have been here with our father. He’s 96,” Steger said.
(Fred Bear Day organizers said Mike Steger, Fred Bear’s foster son, age 96, is a retired colonel.)
Event organizers said they planned to use part of the $500 to pay for the snowplowing of the area used for the 21 Whistling Arrow Salute and the remainder would go toward the current effort to build a statue of Fred Bear in the city park next to the pavilion. Organizers also collected donations during registration to help pay for the plowing in an attempt to put more of the $500 toward the statue endeavor.
Potential shooters then drew chips and those who had numbers two through 21 got to line up and be part of the 21 Whistling Arrow Salute along with Wagner. The custom arrows had special tips to limit their distance.
Organizers – prior to the shoot – said the purpose of the event overall was to honor the legacy of Fred Bear and promote the sport of archery. Organizers challenged those present to “keep the arrows in the air.”
“Fred Bear was our hero and today we celebrate all he did,” organizers said.
After the 21 Whistling Arrow Salute, a private luncheon was held at Kirtland Community College; there were 160 tickets available and the event sold out, organizers said. The luncheon featured a wide variety of Fred Bear memorabilia on display. Also, the statue effort got a significant boost with the announcement of a $25,000 donation from the Bear Archery company, organizers said.
“The statue is going to get done,” Jenkins said. “We’re going to see it through. We just keep chipping and chipping.”
Jenkins said organizers are looking into the possibility of future Fred Bear Day celebrations being on the weekend closest to March 5 in order to allow more people to come to the event.
Many people traveled long distances to attend 2023 Fred Bear Day festivities. Some were from out of town, some from out of state, and some from out of country.
Jenkins said organizers awarded the certificate for longest distance traveled this year to John Baber. Jenkins said Baber – a member of the Air Force – traveled 7,121 miles from Okinawa, Japan.
Becky Shires-Cwiek, Secretary of Fred Bear Day Inc., said this year’s weekend of events went well overall.
“We’ve had a great turnout,” Shires-Cwiek said. “It’s been pretty amazing.”
Organizers said they hope Fred Bear Day continues to grow.
“Down the road this event has unlimited potential,” Jenkins said.
For more on Fred Bear Day, including a link to donate to the statue project via GoFundMe, visit www.fredbearday.org.
According to the site, people can also donate by sending checks to FBD INC, PO Box 307, Roscommon, MI, 48653.