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Outdoors

James Drake

The huge Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show to be held Feb 2 to 10 at the Harrisburg (Pa.) Farm Show Complex has been postponed “for now,” reads the official announcement distributed by the event owners/organizers, Reed Exhibitions.

Reed Exhibitions is part of a worldwide conglomerate specializing in running major business presentation events for the airline, manufacturing and tourism industry, and they’re based in the United Kingdom. The parent company has roots that date back to the 1800s in England.

The Eastern Sports & Outdoor show is the largest outdoors-oriented exposition of its kind in the world, catering to both the hunting and fishing crowd.

To put this in perspective, a typical outdoor show hosted by a local fire department or fishing/hunting club would be considered successful with a dozen or so vendors/exhibitors.

Major outdoor shows, such as the Bass Expo in Timonium or Bassarama in Virginia, both run successfully for many years, would draw up to 100 or sometimes more exhibitors.

The Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show expected more than 1,200 exhibitors and vendors for this year, and nearly a quarter of a million people were projected to attend. Instead of spending a few hours to see mostly everything at a normal outdoor expo, the Harrisburg show was so big, it would take you a few days to do it right.

Estimates of losses to the Harrisburg business community because the show won’t be held this February vary between $40 and $80 million.

Even that lower number is certainly a real big deal, so why has this show been postponed?

Another part of the official Reed Exhibitions announcement reads: “It has become very clear to us after speaking with our customers that the event could not be held because the atmosphere of this year’s show would not be conductive to an event that is designed to provide family enjoyment. It is unfortunate that in the current emotionally charged atmosphere, this celebratory event has become overshadowed by a decision that directly affected a small percentage of more than 1,000 exhibits showcasing products and services for those interested in hunting and fishing.”

So, what really happened?

It all started on Jan. 15 when Reed Exhibitions announced that it would not allow companies to display or sell tactical rifles because of the current political climate. They originally thought this would only involve less than a dozen or so vendors.

In reality, it directly affected about 100 exhibits. The boycotts began when word spread of the new show policy. The very next day, hundreds of posts to the event’s Facebook page said they would no longer attend.

On Jan. 20, a leading outdoors retailer, Cabela’s, one of the major show sponsors, pulled out. The next day, Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, hosts of the Outdoor Channel show The Crush announced that they, too, were boycotting the show. They said it was a hard decision, but in the end, “they couldn’t support a show that doesn’t completely support the Second Amendment.”

On Jan. 22, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, which actually began this particular show back in the 1950s, threatened to pull out.

The National Wild Turkey Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation then made it known that they wouldn’t be attending, and on Jan. 24, Olympic gold medalist Jamie Gray, who won in the rifle competition in London, announced she wouldn’t be coming.

Many smaller vendors, even some folks who schedule a major part of their guided trips for the entire year at this one event, announced they wouldn’t participate. Additional outdoor businesses that have nothing to do with the firearm industry continued to cancel.

At the end of the day Jan. 24, more than 300 exhibitors had withdrawn from the Harrisburg show.

Many of those vendors have expressed in their formal announcements that they’d reconsider support for the Harrisburg show if Reed Exhibitions should reverse its stance regarding modern sporting rifles.

On Jan. 25, Reed announced it was postponing the show.

Since then, many other outdoor shows across the country are trying hard to get the word out that they are not banning any type of firearms from their shows.

The Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show to be held next week in Portland, Ore., the second largest consumer sportsman’s show in the country, recently contacted The Outdoor Wire to say they have “no intention of outlawing any legal sporting product from their exhibit floor and they want the entire industry to know that.”

The loss of the Harrisburg show is a huge negative to so many people from the little mom-and-pop grocery near the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex to area gas stations, motels and restaurants. Outdoor vendors from many states stand to lose big money. and for some, it’s going to be a catastrophic loss.

The one positive is the evident unity of the entire outdoor community, and there is no reason to believe that’s going to soon end.

Happy Valentine’s Day

On Feb. 9, the Valentine Express Dinner Train will be rolling through West Virginia ,and I’m guessing your attendance will be a whole lot more favorably received than a sampler of chocolate or another bunch of flowers.

The train, a 1950s refurbished Amtrak car, will make a 2 1/2-hour trip departing Petersburg and turning around in Moorefield. In between, you’ll have lovely and romantic views through the foothills of the Potomac River Valley. The panorama of the South Branch of the Potomac River in this area is said to be simply breathtaking in multiple spots.

A three course dinner is planned aboard after a two-hour wine and food tasting scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m.

The cost is $60 per person, and you may purchase tickets by calling 304-257-9264 or going to www.southsidedepot.com.

Do you think they’ll offer a discount if you take both your wife and girlfriend along?

zbasser@aol.com