One of the nation's largest outdoors expos, canceled in February following a dealers' boycott protesting a ban on sales of semi-automatic rifles, is back on track with a new promoter.
Renamed the Great American Outdoors Show, the 65-year-old Harrisburg expo will return in an expanded form Feb. 1-9, 2014, under the management of the National Rifle Association.
"We're looking to maintain the hunting, fishing, archery and camping sections of the show but plan to greatly expand the firearms section by inviting many national brands," said NRA spokesman Jeremy Greene.
Under new management, conferences and group meetings will be added to the program, and the high-performance firearms at the core of the controversy will be back at the one-million-square-foot Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
"The NRA will absolutely bring back modern sporting rifles as part of the show. That was a big issue," Mr. Greene said.
Cancellation of the event was a financial blow for the region.
"It cost the local economy more than $80 million and devastated many local businesses -- some even laid off employees," said Jeff Haste, Dauphin County commissioner. "The show is so important that [Dauphin County] put $58,000 toward reserving the Farm Show Complex for 2014. The Great American Outdoors Show has the potential to draw bigger crowds, offer more educational programs and family-friendly entertainment."
The county discontinued its relationship with promoter Reed Exhibitions, a subsidiary of a British events organizer, which had triggered the vendor protest by banning some firearms. The NRA, a vendor at the show for more than 25 years, was chosen among 17 national promoters.
"Our hope was to find a show sponsor who could grow this show into a nationally recognized event that would mean more to the outdoor sports community as well as our own community," said David E. Black, president and CEO of Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp. "The new show has incredible potential that will be good economic news for our region for years to come."
The NRA claims 900,000 members within 300 miles of Harrisburg.
John Hayes: 412-263-1991, email@example.com.