Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by and addicted to sport shows, those late winter places where outfitters, vacation destinations, travel deals and every new gadget and piece of gear is displayed and explained.
Places where impulse buyers get their kicks (Yes, I came home with a new duck call and may have wanted one more than I needed one). Places where hunters and anglers set dreams in motion.
And now I’ve lived to see the most perfect and spectacular of all sport shows, the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, a ten day Super Bowl of outdoor shows held on the tail end of winter in Pennsylvania’s capital city.
Let me put it this way: Take all the sport shows you’ve ever attended, pick the largest and best, put them together, then multiply the monstrosity by ten, no, multiply it by 20.
A friend and I, both outdoor writers and both in search of the right outfitter for another whack at a Rocky Mountain elk, made the 300-mile drive to Harrisburg, roomed overnight, then attacked the show early the next morning.
Well actually our assault was seriously delayed by an unexpected traffic jam as thousands of vehicles tried to squeeze their way into the facility’s parking lot.
This on a Wednesday, proving that if there really is a recession it isn’t slowing attendance at what is certainly America’s greatest outdoor show. Either that or no one is working and thus they are available to attend.
Finally parked, we entered to see a huge facility filled with great stuff. Thinking that this was a good place to be we slowly became aware of the fact that the first building, one big enough for a Super Bowl, was just one of the many buildings, corridors, arenas and other spaces that make up the State Farm Show Complex near downtown Harrisburg. The complex is a big as a small town and more densely populated, even on a weekday.
No one except a well-conditioned track star could do this show in one day. It is acres upon acres of things to do, things to see and things to watch including hundreds of western outfitters, dozens of African Safari exhibitors, an entire room devoted to waterfowl and game calls (a rather deafening and inspiring place to experience), archers shooting, hunting dogs showing off, celebrities instructing, fishers casting, power sports shining, seminars, contests and someone showing every conceivable devise, attachment, enhancement, garment and some of the finest taxidermy displays ever imagined.
And that’s just a partial list. It is an event to see and well worth the drive. And yes, we both booked with a favorite Colorado cowboy.
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