From gun safety tips to helicopter airlift hanger tours, Paris Regional Medical Center’s first Camo Expo offered safety and fun for the whole family Saturday, said event organizer Samantha McDowra — and the Kona Ice truck came out.

The expo included both vendors and public safety personnel, including Paris Harley-Davidson, Chicota and Powderly volunteer fire departments, Lamar County Fish and Game wardens, Paris Police and EMS, Archers for Christ, and Williams Gun and Gear. As of Saturday afternoon, there had been about 50 visitors. While she was hoping more people would come by, McDowra said she was happy to meet those who made it out to the event.

“I went into this hoping to touch one person’s life,” she said. “If I touch one person, that’s one person informed. The goal of the event is injury prevention, and safety in the woods.”

Joe Pretre, Texas License To Carry instructor, came out to the expo to give information about his classes and share gun safety advice. Gun safety was an increasingly important topic for firearm users, law enforcement and civilians alike, he said, adding he gave some tips on general practice.

“Gun safety is always important. Every firearm should be treated as if it’s loaded. If it’s not being used, the best way to protect anybody and everybody is to lock it up in some way,” he said. “And if you’re new to firearms, I say go visit a gun store, handle the firearms, find what’s the best feel for you. Don’t just go off what you hear from somebody else.”

Jynell Elder was at the expo to promote Stop the Bleed, an educational course that teaches bleeding control, wound treatment and tourniquet use in emergency or trauma situations. Elder demonstrated proper tourniquet technique and taught a free Stop the Bleed class at 1 p.m.

“This is a class to teach everyday people how to save a life. That’s the beauty of Stop the Bleed, anybody can do it,” she said. “It’s something everybody needs to know. Anybody that’s going to be out in the woods, that’s the beauty of learning these tourniquets — you can use it on yourself if you’re out in the woods by yourself. You can save your own life.”

Texas game wardens brought their 21-foot patrol boat out to the expo, and displayed safety equipment they look for on boats, such as life jackets and safety flares. They also handed out hunting guides and answered any questions from visitors, since hunting season began Sept. 1, said Bryan Callahan, a game warden.

“We’re just telling people a little bit about what we do. If you’re not in the outdoors, you don’t really come in contact with game wardens that much,” Callahan said. “Tips for hunting are being prepared and always tell people what your plans are. We call it ‘plan the hunt, and hunt the plan.’”

Event attendee Carol Ann Michaels said she was initially skeptical, but ended up pleased by how the event turned out.

“To know they offer CPR classes, they were giving pointers, things like that, especially as a new single mom, I found that extremely helpful,” Michaels said. “Especially stuff as simple as ear protection for (my daughter). I think it’s very beneficial out here. And Kona Ice is always a plus.”

Michaels also said it was nice to meet the emergency responders at the expo.

“Meeting our local firemen and our local EMS teams, I mean, that’s great,” she said, recalling a paramedic she met back in California who helped her through some panic attacks. “I was so grateful to know him on a different, personal level. So knowing these men out here, not only do I work with them, but one day they could potentially save your life.”

Macon Atkinson is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6963 or

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