If you're one of those bleeding-heart liberal types who thinks no human on the planet needs to own a gun, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is probably not the place for you. I ventured into this dead-animal party in search of Santa for the first installment of this year's Santa Ratings, and was unexpectedly greeted by a two-story indoor mountain (complete with an elevator in the middle) dotted with stuffed and growling wolves and bears, dead Bighorn sheep and, at the bottom, a live pool of fish. It was also "feeding time," meaning other live fish were being thrown into the writhing mass by a guy giving a play-by-play on a headset mike to a crowd of adults and kids in strollers. And I hadn't even gotten to Santa yet. I guess when I saw "Outdoor World" on the sign, I was expecting an REI-type of joint -- you know, a warehouse full of tents, expensive outerwear and Nalgene bottles in every size, color and recyclable material available. I was wrong, and that's okay -- there was just a small amount of shock followed by the inappropriate dropping of a handful of "what the fuck"s as I walked through the retail store's amusement-park turnstiles and stared at all the dead stuff.
Once my vegetarian sister and I navigated through the fishing poles, ATVs and a room of guns, we found Santa's wonderland, parked conveniently next to the boats. The line to see Santa was long, but we hopped in with high hopes. Five minutes into standing in line and feeling like two childless weirdos, a woman informed us that we should probably get "a ticket" to see Santa. She must have smelled the clue-free on our not-plaid jackets. I held our place in line while veggie sister went to get a ticket. Upon quickly returning, she muttered "5:30" to me. Wait, what? It was now 2:45 p.m. We were supposed to come back in two hours and 45 minutes just to see Santa? I blurted out a Joe Dirt "Dang!" and decided we needed a new plan of attack, because being in a bustling Outdoor World for three hours after just devouring seven Cheddar Bay biscuits at the neighboring Red Lobster was not going to happen.
But smart sister had an idea: Why not just climb to the top of indoor mountain and take surveillance-style photos of Santa from the second floor? After all, we did not drive all the way to Northfield's Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World to not get a photo. If we couldn't get a photo with Santa, we were still going to get a photo of Santa. Somehow missing the giant glass elevator in the mountain, we hiked up the treacherous rock staircase only to find a whole new world of hunting crap like we had never seen before: Head-to-toe leafy camouflage outfits, a kiddie shooting range and a miniature tent city awaited our excavation. But we could not be distracted from our mission, so we pushed through orange vests and fleece body blankets to the log railing overlooking Santa and the boats, and snapped some photos.
From afar, this Santa looked pretty authentic -- his beard looked real, and more important, he was a good sport. Thinking about sitting in a chair and having strange children sit on your lap for hours a day suddenly seemed more daunting than before. That's when we decided it was time to head over to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill bar and grill.
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