The Great American Experience, Harrisburg's "new" outdoor show is a big hit for sportsmen

Posted on February 4, 2014

Tyler Frantz

Less than 24-hours after Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, Mother Nature treated most of Pennsylvania to an aptly timed snowfall of several inches.

The weather was ominous enough to keep even the hardiest outdoorsmen home by a warm fireplace, where they were likely to tie flies, fletch arrows or tinker with hunting gear to pass the time.

However, as storms break and travel conditions improve, Pennsylvanians are always eager to get back into the swing of things. That means hunters, anglers, and shooting enthusiasts will be piling into Harrisburg this week to attend the largest consumer outdoor show in the United States - NRA's Great American Outdoor Show.

Last year's cancellation of the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show - a decision made as a result of exhibitors pulling out to protest the former production company's discrimination against certain types of firearms displays - left faithful show attendees feeling discontent and yearning for something more.

This year, the NRA, Outdoor Channel, Cabelas and Ram Trucks joined forces to present a brand new show that is touted as being bigger and better than ever before. Upon visiting the show, (where show hours and info are posted), it's clear to see that there is definitely something for everyone. 

There's a long list of outdoor celebrities who are happy to talk with guests and share their knowledge through informational seminars. NRA Country music sensation, Brantley Gilbert, will perform in concert on Saturday, Feb. 8th.

Folks looking to book destination hunts or chartered fishing trips can expect an appealing variety of options from which to choose. Many outfitters will offer show specials, particularly later in the week, when they sometimes reduce prices to ensure a full booking of clients for next season.

Vendors have every new outdoor gadget one can dream up, there are fun activities the whole family can enjoy and faithful readers can renew their annual subscriptions to Pennsylvania Outdoor News.

Expect the new layout to differ from the old Harrisburg show, as the NRA really beefed up its firearm exhibition area and moved around some of the other typical displays. Navigation takes some getting used to, but the show really is quite impressive.

How does one manage to find everything? There's an App for that! The Great American Outdoor Show Mobile App is free to download on all iPhone, iPad, and Android operating systems. It is available on the Apple App store and Google Play by searching "GAOS 2014," and it should help attendees stay organized.

Even with a menacing snowfall somewhat hindering Monday's attendance numbers, it is certain that the Capitol area is delighted to have an outdoor show back in town. The show is expected to help the local economy recover from an estimated $44 million loss as a result of last year's show cancellation.

This is a reminder to all citizens of the state that the outdoors is big business in Pennsylvania. Sportsmen's dollars contribute more to the economy than many realize, and the Great American Outdoors Show should be a big-time moneymaker.

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