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Cabela’s Tent Sale Draws Thousands

July 26, 2001

SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) _ Bob Tilley peered through large binoculars Thursday into a huge tent packed with hiking boots, fishing rods and sleeping bags for the sidewalk sale at sports retailer Cabela’s.

``If you get a good pair, you see the prices,″ Tilley said, squinting into the binoculars and bracing himself against a stiff wind.

With his 17-year-old son Shawn, Tilley drove 430 miles from Frankfort, Kan., to be among the first when thousands line up for the sale on Saturday morning. They set up their tent on Wednesday.

Prices are slashed as much as 70 percent on slightly damaged, returned, discontinued or sample items. The first person in line gets three minutes alone in the tent, which is set off by wooden snow fencing, followed by staggered starts until a black powder rifle is fired and the gates open wide.

Seven tents were set up Thursday, two days before the sale. Other people waited at Cabela’s motor home park and in nearby motels.

As many as 16,000 people visit the store during the two-day sale. Impressive, considering no more than 10,000 people live within a 25-mile radius of Sidney.

Tilley has been coming for 11 years.

Pat Hoing, 54, drove 300 miles from Pierre, S.D. He and his brother, 67-year-old Mike, of George, Iowa, set their tent last Saturday and will claim second in line for their seven-day stay. They have been coming for 12 years. None of them brought their wives.

``It’s male power shopping,″ Pat Hoing said.

The sale started more than 20 years ago when Cabela’s store was in downtown Sidney. It moved under a big tent in 1989, and two years later moved with the store to a much larger site just outside the city along Interstate 80.

Largely because of the sale, hotel rooms are booked months in advance and restaurants and other businesses hire extra help just for the weekend.

``Cabela’s has taken it to a whole new level,″ City Manager City Gary Person said. ``They turned it into what it is today, a three-day extravaganza.″

The Sidney store has become Nebraska’s second most visited tourist site, drawing 1 million visitors annually. It has a restaurant and more than 60,000 products in its 73,000 square feet. It features a miniature mountain and waterfalls with mounted game animals and an 8,000 gallon aquarium stocked with fish native to Nebraska.

Outside, Cabela’s has a 3 1/2-acre pond, dog kennels, horse corrals and room for tents and 31 mobile homes. Its lot holds more than 400 cars and trucks.

Company founders Dick and Mary Cabela still live in Sidney. They started the privately owned mail-order company in 1961, filling orders from their kitchen table in nearby Chappell.


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