ROME TOWNSHIP – The 2021 Sportsman Expo welcomed its largest crowd in its three years of operation Saturday. According to organizer Don Ammerman, part of that draw was due to special guest John Godwin from the A&E hit series “Duck Dynasty.”
On the grounds next to the soccer field along Route 187, hundreds of people gathered under a tent to hear Godwin provide some insight into the popular show, share how he came to know the Robertson family at the center of the Duck Commander business the show is based on, and hear his story about coming into faith in Jesus Christ.
Before “Duck Dynasty,” which ran from 2012 to 2017, there was “Duck Commander” on the Outdoor Channel. The “Duck Commander” show, which started in 2009, was eventually noticed by the larger A&E network. However, Godwin noted, fan favorite Uncle Si was not part of the initial planning for “Duck Dynasty.”
“Then we said, ‘You gotta spend three minutes with him,’” he explained.
In fact, Godwin said Uncle Si is the subject of the question he hears the most on his travels: Is Si really that crazy?
“Yep,” Godwin said. “The only problem is that y’all can turn him off. We can’t.”
Producers wanted to begin filming in the spring, well before the November start of duck season in Louisiana, and told the cast the show wouldn’t exclusively focus on duck hunting. Gowin remembered patriarch Phil Robertson saying, “Don’t worry about this one, boys. This will be one and done.”
But the show continued on as it gained popularity, and produced multiple spin-offs.
Godwin said his experience being part of the show and dealing with the large crew behind the scenes makes him look at other television programming differently.
“There was probably 35 people in front of us all the time,” he explained. “Cameras, people with mics, boom people. I mean, it was like a city. We’d say stuff, and they would say, ‘You need to say that again.’ I’d say, ‘I thought this was reality.’ They said, ‘You really said it.’”
“It was pretty neat,” he continued. “We’re still trying to figure out what in the world happened. We were making duck calls one minute and the next we’re runnin’ around doin’ stuff and acting crazy. It was fun though.”
Of course, he demonstrated a variety of duck calls, and even joked with one of them how chatty the females can be compared to the males. He also dispelled the myth that wood ducks can’t be called, saying that many try to call them using the sound these ducks make while flying instead of the sound they make while on water. With that, he also offered a recipe for wood duck men can use to impress the ladies.
“You pluck that thing and cut the breasts out of it and split them. … You season them up with your favorite seasoning, you put some cream cheese in there, you put some little jalapeno slices in there, then you roll that thing up like sushi. You put bacon around the outside, put your favorite seasoning on it, and cook it medium. You can’t cook it well done – it would be like boot leather. Medium. It’s not poultry, it’s fowl. It’s not going to hurt you. But right before it’s done, take a little honey and drizzle on top of it. You feed that thing to your woman, your fixin’ to get gas money, gun money … that will get you some special things, boys.”
For Godwin, the best thing to come out of the “Duck Dynasty” experience was the chance to travel around the country and meet different people.
“Y’all are just like us,” he said about Bradford County. “America is awesome, it really is.”
It was Phil Robertson who helped bring Godwin to faith in Jesus Christ on Jan. 21, 1996, when he was baptized.
Godwin said he had a good upbringing with a father who was a World War II veteran. Having spent plenty of time in the outdoors and hunting growing up, Godwin said his father made these experiences fun – and challenged other parents to do the same for their children. However, around his junior year in high school, Godwin began experimenting with drugs and got into drinking alcohol.
“Man, did I waste a lot of money,” he said. “I could have bought a brand new truck, jacked it up, looking good, all kinds of stuff with the money I was throwing away. I got into debt. Boy, that was a struggle, trying to get out of that.”
He continued “smoking dope and getting drunk all of the time” after getting married to his wife of 33 years, Paula. It was after they adopted their daughter that his wife “wanted us to straighten up and start going to church.” Godwin said he wasn’t ready for that yet.
An old buddy began contacting him about going to church repeatedly, and eventually tricked Godwin to attending a “house church” service by pitching it as a burger cook-out. There, Robertson was providing the lesson, although Godwin just walked off to the side.
As his wife kept wanting to go to churches, Godwin thought that he could get a duck call for the upcoming duck season by attending the church Robertson attended.
“I thought I would kill two birds with one stone,” he said.
While visiting Robertson’s home, Godwin learned about how Jesus died for everyone’s sins on the cross out of love.
“I didn’t know how to take all of this. I didn’t know we had a god that loves us so much,” Godwin said. “ … All I had heard is if you don’t act like this, you’re going to Hell.”
Robertson challenged Godwin to read the books of Luke and Acts from the Bible to validate everything Robertson had told him.
Having been to every state except Hawaii, Godwin remarked about the beauty of God’s creation and the promise of Heaven.
“Heaven’s going to be awesome and I can’t wait to get there,” he said. “I like to ride bull, or used to, so I’m thinking Heaven is going to be like, oh, I’ve got about 100,000 acres. … I got a big ol’ lake in the middle of it and I’m trying to get there, but I can’t get down the road through all them big buck deer. And there’s 8-pound crappie I’m trying to get to. The ducks won’t land anywhere but there, and there isn’t a game warden in sight. But it’s going to be better than that because that is only what I can imagine.”
Godwin used the example of Paul who had killed Christians before becoming an apostle to show that no one is beyond redemption, and invited anyone in need of salvation to make their way up to the baptism tank was next to the stage.
Given that he was speaking on 9/11, he thanked the veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan following the attacks.
“Don’t feel bad about what’s going on (with the Afghanistan withdrawal),” he said, while referencing the frustrations of a veteran friend. “Y’all mean a lot to us. Nothing happened on y’all’s watch, so thank you very much to all of the vets out there.”
The Sportsman Expo, which is sponsored by the North Rome Wesleyan Church, kicked off at noon with three times as many vendors as in years past, according to organizer Don Ammerman. He estimated that around 1,000 people had visited the grounds through the day.
“This is probably 10-times as busy as it was last year,” Ammerman said.
Other attractions included seminars on bird dogs, conceal carry, white tail supplements, and how to film a hunt, followed by a pic roast dinner by Callears BBQ and Shores Sisters Farmers Market. There were also a variety of door prizes handed out at the conclusion of the night, which included a crossbow, a hunting trip to Africa, tool kits, gift cards, and gift baskets.
With the event having concluded its third year Saturday, Ammerman said, “We plan to keep on doing it,” he said, while reminding the public to look for next year’s event in September. “Everybody’s welcome every year. We’re going to keep everything free. Just come and have a good time.