Local business braced for a significant economic hit after Reed Exhibitions announced Thursday it’s indefinitely postponing the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show. The event was scheduled to start next Saturday at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.
The annual event draws people from across the country for the biggest show of its kind on the East Coast. The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau estimated the economic impact to be at least $80 million.
“The granddaddy, it’s the same impact that you would have if you were to cancel the Super Bowl in New Orleans in 10 days,” said Randy Stuart, vice president of sales for Milestone Hospitality Management. The company manages three hotels in the Harrisburg area.
Stuart estimated his business would lose $220,000 from guest cancellations alone.
“All the folks who come from feeder cities to go to this event, just in our three hotels alone it’s 2,400 rooms,” said Stuart.
The visitors bureau called its economic impact estimate conservative “because it does not factor in venue revenue from parking, food & beverage, service and rental fees. The estimate also does not include the lost room tax revenue collected by Dauphin County or the lost revenue at Harrisburg International Airport or other related facilities and service providers.“
Reed decided to limit the use of assault rifles at the show in the wake of the hot political debate over the role of guns in American society.
Some gun rights advocates were highly critical of the decision, leading some to boycott the event. As of Thursday, a website keeping track of vendors estimated more than 300 of them had decided to back out of the event. You can read about that by clicking here.
Reed released a statement about the decision Thursday but declined interview requests. (Click here to read the full statement.)
The statement reads in part, “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.”
Jospeh Staudt runs a gun store just outside Harrisburg and had planned to be an exhibitor for the first time at the show. However, he said the show became so controversial, he became one of the 300 vendors who decided not to go.
“I am disappointed overall, first that we had to back out of the show, and of course now that it’s postponed, I’m hoping that Reed Exhibitions when and if they do decide to put it back on, that this restriction on certain firearms won’t apply,” said Staudt.
Staudt said he recently returned from the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nev., which Reed Exhibitions produces and manages. It’s a huge trade show which is not open to the public. Staudt said it featured assault weapons, the kind Reed was attempting to limit in Pennsylvania.
While Reed managed the show, it’s owned and sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is based in Newtown, Conn.
Staudt said he would consider attending the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show should it end up happening. But, he wants Reed to reconsider its decision on which weapons to allow.
Staudt said he is “hoping that Reed Exhibitions would change their mind and since these types of firearms are not outlawed, that they would be able to be a part of the show.”