WHERE were those wild creatures in the It's All Happening post?
INSIDE an upscale outdoorsy retail store complete with high ceilings, a centerpiece indoor mountain of slopes and ledges teeming with wildlife — all dead and preserved in realistic poses in Cabela's off I-78 in Hamburg, PA (as Doris, Mona and Elaine correctly figured out).
This outdoor retail store is one of the biggest "tourist" attractions in this area. We found it accidentally when returning from a visit to the Reading RR museum, also in Hamburg.
Cabela's, based in Sidney, Nebraska, calls itself "The World's Foremost Outfitter" with 39 stores across the U.S. and in Canada.We had NEVER been in one, so finding this one, chain's largest U.S. retail store, was a surprise. This mega-store sits atop a hill and is visible for several miles. Inside the massive 250,000 square foot store is an educational and entertainment show room, featuring animal displays in various ecosystems that recreate their natural habitats. The setups look like something seen in museums — but here it's all free, if you can resist shopping, which we did.
The taxidermy and other attractions form Cabela's key marketing strategy: Make each store a destination and visitors will spend time and money. The large retail stores look like huge stone hunting lodges attracting hunting, fishing, outdoor minded enthusiasts and just plain curious folks (like us0. Typically situated on a hill that overlooks a major interstate highway, these large retail stores annually attract close to 4 million visitors, many travel over 100 miles to reach one.
Conservation Mountain, a 30-foot-tall fiberglass creation filled with preserved wildlife, is the centerpiece exhibit. Displays are realistic, including some animal savagery scenes — bears "maul" a moose behind the mountain, a lynx chases a snowshoe hare beside a waterfall, an arctic wolf has designs on some musk ox, a mountain lion surveys a some big-horn sheep.
The Africa Diorama has gruesome scenes on its simulated slice of the African plains — a pride of lions chase down a panicked assortment of herd animals and two alligators attack a wildebeest.
Cabela's has a taxidermy product manager in charge of designing displays and collecting animals, buying hides from hunters, then hiring local taxidermists to create the appropriate poses and scenes. Mounted animals are bought from hunters wanting to free up space in their homes. According to online sources, all animals are donated; none were hunted in an illegal manner or for the purpose of being used in the retail stores.
This retail store (and others) are proof that you don't have to go far to see the outdoors as it's now indoors.