Huge ripple effect with Harrisburg show cancellation
Sad to say but the Eastern Sports Show has been cancelled for this year at least. For any sportsman living in a cave, the Easter Sports and Outdoor Show has been held every year since 1951 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pa., and is the one of the largest consumer events for sporting enthusiasts in North America in terms of size, attendance and exhibitor segments. With over 1,000 exhibitors including, outfitters, food vendors, call manufacturers, boat, RV and ATV retail sale businesses, the show was a wintertime fun event for people from all over the Northeast. But not this year.
Reed Exhibitions, a company based in the UK, is huge. It puts on over 500 trade and other shows worldwide, including the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) in addition to the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show. It seems like it all hit the fan when Reed declared AR-15 rifles and large ammunition clips would not be allowed to be displayed or sold at this year’s show. The backlash was more than anyone anticipated (certainly more than Reed anticipated) and numerous celebrities, along with over 300 show vendors began to pull out en masse. Negotiations with Reed officials, the NRA and representatives from the National Shooting Sports Foundation failed to reach a compromise and, as a result, show officials “postponed” – read cancelled – the show for this year.
One has to wonder what on Earth the Reed management team was thinking when they banned the exhibition of the AR-15 rifle from the show. This isn’t a PETA convention; it’s a hunting, fishing, boating and outdoor exhibition and as a result it’s a safe bet the overwhelming majority of all showgoers own a gun or even several, so it’s not hard to imagine the outrage. But show attendees aren’t the only ones affected by the cancellation.
According to the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau (HHRVB), tourism officials estimate the postponement of the state's largest outdoor sports show means $44 million in direct spending from vendors and attendees and $80 million in lost revenue for the local economy. The 22 hotels offering special room rate agreements for show vendors and attendees say the event accounted for approximately 12,000 room nights over a 10-day period during a traditionally slow tourism season for a region that welcomes 10 million visitors annually.
Tourism officials claim the estimated loss is conservative, factoring in only the direct and indirect spending for the 1,000 vendors and anticipated 250,000 attendees. Reported numbers do not account for lost revenue at the event complex from parking, food and beverage, and service and rental fees.
Because of its home ties in the UK, one has to wonder how much of the British mindset on gun control factored into the company’s hardheaded stance on banning the display of these controversial rifles. All this does no one any good. I personally know several sportsmen who were going to book an elk and antelope hunt out West and personally, I was anticipating going back to central Quebec for a walleye and northern pike fishing trip this summer. Now, other plans have to be made. Let’s hope all this gets settled and cooler heads prevail. It may be too late to be held this year but many feel the show must go on and hope 2014 will see it back again.