By Lars Dalseide | March 21 2014 11:30

Opening ceremony at Ijams Nature Center sets groundwork for Outdoor Communication celebration

Bluegrass trio plays during POMA opening ceremony at Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville, TN

Knoxville, Tennessee - With a banjo, guitar, and mandolin trio strumming away, there was plenty of picking and a grinning as opening ceremonies for the 2014 Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) Conference landed at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville. A gathering of the finest outdoor writers, producers, and personalities in the United States, Ijams was the perfect location to say hello to Tennessee.

"It's amazing to find 300 acres of pristine wilderness less than 10 miles outside the city," said POMA Board member Kevin Reese. "A great location to kick off a great event."

Welcomed with renditions of Pee Wee King's "Tennessee Waltz" and Earl Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", it was a countryfied night fitting for the Queen City of the Mountains. Sipping sweat tea with sides of fried chicken, pulled pork and potato salad, the only thing missing was grandma's pecan pie. But even a lack of grandma's finest couldn't take away from the night.

Founded in 2005, POMA "is a group of individual communicators and Corporate Partners who believe in, defend, support and promote the heritage of hunting, fishing, shooting, and traditional outdoor sports through writing, photography, and other means." Every year they gather at an outdoor friendly location to catch up on the latest in media trends, technological advancements, and marketing campaigns. But there's more to POMA than that.

Softshell turtle swimming around at Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville, TN "The relationships establish here go beyond business," said Reese. "It's a family. We work together, learn together and, if all goes well, advance together."

Once the sweet tea ran low and the fried chicken appeared to evaporate into the night, Ijams staff invited the tourist on a trip through the facilities. Walls filled with turtles of softshell, owls of screech, and peckers of wood (ran out of clever examples) thrilled the POMA brothers and sisters until the the closer arrived. The resident corn snake.

Pantherophis guttatus to the scientifically inclined, the orange scaled serpent drew both interest and fear as he was walked through the grounds. But this one was not for petting. In fact, policy dictates that every animal at Ijams is not for petting as most are rescued and cared for by professionals. Though some were disappointed, the mere sight of some scurrying to the far corners of the complex was enough to mitigate any regrets.

With the animals back in their enclosures and patrons back on the bus, day one of the 2014 Professional Outdoor Media Association Conferece came to a close. A day filled with travel and cheer. For though some traversed timezones while others barely crossed the street, all were happy to arrive. To be back together again.

Just like family.

A corn snake on the lose at Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville, TN

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