For a number of years, I visited the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The show, which is held in a hideous rambling building originally intended to handle livestock, is a genuine monster. For a solid week, people in the tens of thousands come from near and far to grope sporting goods, book hunting and fishing trips, attend demonstrations, and generally see what is what.
ESS, as it will hereinafter be referred to, is put on by Reed Exhibitions. Reed is the world’s largest organizer of trade shows and the like; the firm handles 500 events in 39 countries in all phases of industry, and included among its clients are the SHOT Show. And, oh yes, Reed Exhibitions is British.
The Brits have never really understood America, and this centuries-old tradition was carried on in a manner that would have made King George III proud when Reed decided that MSRs–Modern Sporting Rifles, or ARs if you prefer–were not appropriate for the ESS and would not be present this year. (They were very much present at the SHOT Show because there, NSSF and not Reed says what will and won’t be exhibited.)
When this decision was promulgated, ESS exhibitors bailed–lots of them, and big ones, Cabela’s and NRA to name only two of the more than 200 who said cheerio.
The NSSF, in a statement released today, said that it had tried to tell Reed management The Way Things Are in the United States, but that the talks had reached an impasse. NSSF also said that they will reconsider whether Reed will continue to run the SHOT Show.
So, today, having seen the handwriting on the wall, or the tea in the harbor as it were, Reed announced that the ESS is being postponed. On the show’s website is the following statement, which I’m quoting here. It comes from one Chet Burchett, Reed Exhibitions President for the Americas:
“Our original decision not to include certain products in the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show this year was made in order to preserve the event’s historical focus on the hunting and fishing traditions enjoyed by American families. In the current climate, we felt that the presence of MSRs would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests. This was intended simply as a product decision, of the type event organizers need to make every day.
“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 conducive 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.
“ESS has long been proud to participate in the preservation and promotion of hunting and fishing traditions, and we hope that as the national debate clarifies, we will have an opportunity to consider rescheduling the event when the time is right to focus on the themes it celebrates.”
I think Mr. Burchett and Reed Exhibitions are going to have a long wait until that time comes. It’s a shame they couldn’t have spoken beforehand with King George III about what the colonists are like.