HOOKSETT — Local outdoor enthusiasts, politicians and Boston-area sports stars were among those who helped celebrate the grand opening of the new Bass Pro Shops.
Among those in attendance for the ribbon cutting of the 149,000-square-foot outdoor sporting goods store — located next to Walmart, off Exit 10 on I-93 in Hooksett — were former Boston Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon, former Boston Bruins center Bob Sweeney, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Bruce and Pail Hebert, stars of National Geographic Channel's "Wicked Tuna."
Despite snow squalls and harsh winter weather conditions, more than 5,400 customers passed through the Bass Pro Shops doors for Wednesday's Conservation Night alone, said General Manager Bob Pope, who noted the event generated more than $45,000 for local conservation groups since 50 cents of every dollar was set aside to preserve New Hampshire's wildlife and environment.
"I'd say New Hampshire and New England is a hearty group to have whiteout conditions at 3 o'clock, and then to have over 5,000 people come here at 6 kind of shows what New Hampshire is all about," said Pope. "It was just a big party atmosphere. Folks came in, they hung out, they looked around the store, and they did some shopping."
Yet it was the next day, when Bass Pro Shops held its official Grand Opening, that many of the true diehard outdoor sports enthusiasts showed up. Roughly 1,000 eager shoppers, in fact, waited outside in frigid temperatures for Bass Pro Shops to open Thursday morning.
"I'd say a lot of people seem to have taken the day off to come in and shop," Pope said.
The first 200 through the door were rewarded for their early morning effort with gift cards ranging in value from $5 to $100. Those behind them were treated to free coffee and donuts as they entered the store.
"We've been waiting since November for this, and then they delayed it, so we were a little upset, but now it's open, so we're happy and pretty excited," said Julie Dion of Manchester.
"We've been waiting for this to happen and now it's here," echoed Nick Hebert. "My dad loves it. He's a big fisherman, so I know he'll be asking for Bass Pro Shops gift cards every year for Christmas and his birthday, so we'll be here often."
Richard Bombard of Brookline said the Grand Opening was a "can't-miss" event, though he noted the store was somewhat smaller than other Bass Pro Shops locations such as the Foxborough, Mass., store at Patriot Place.
"I'm thrilled to death. They certainly have a great selection, and it's a nice place to come on a rainy afternoon and look around and see what's new," Bombard said. "The prices are pretty competitive, not the best in the world, but pretty comparable to (other outdoor sporting goods stores)."
While many avid outdoor enthusiasts like Bombard attended the grand opening, there were hundreds of others, like Morgan Poll and her 1-year-old daughter Malan, who were there just to check out the giant sales floor and all the spectacles and realistic displays it holds.
"It's huge. I've never been to (a Bass Pro Shops) before," said Poll. "(Malan) loved coming to see all the animals, and the fish and just checking everything out and having something to come do in the winter."
The grand opening giveaways and festivities continue through the weekend, Pope said.