In Bloomsburg, the show went on
BLOOMSBURG Â- Not every outdoor-centered show has been canceled.
That was evident from the packed buildings at the Early Bird Sports Expo at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds Sunday.
While the expo was in full swing on its last day, conversations still revolved around Reed Exhibitions' decision to postpone this year's Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show in Harrisburg just days before the event was set to begin.
The reactions tended toward confusion as to why the company set itself up to fail with a sudden ban an assault rifles for this year's show in reaction to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., while everyone seemed to wonder aloud why the right to bear arms and protecting schools had to be pitted against each other.
Sam Mondrosch, of Snydertown, who books multiple hunting trips a year, was disappointed in the decision to postpone the Harrisburg show, but took full advantage of the Bloomsburg Expo.
"I've gone every year for as many years as I can remember, but I also come up here and this seems like it's a lot bigger. I know before, within an hour or so, I was through the whole place," Mondrosch said while scanning a brochure he'd picked up.
He understands the ban and the subsequent boycott by the NRA and
several hundred vendors of the show. He also wonders if the Harrisburg show will ever be back.
"First, I was shocked because I was looking forward to it," he said. "I picked up a couple hunts out of there the last couple of years and I was looking forward to an African trip. But I'm a member of the NRA, so I go along with their boycott."
Byron McHenry, of Bloomsburg, who was at the Bloomsburg Expo with his family, has guns, but has mixed feelings on a national ban on assault weapons.
"Some people enjoy shooting them, but I have no use for them," he said. "I have guns, but they're locked up."
McHenry couldn't tell if the crowd was bigger at the expo or not, but wondered if a Second Amendment ban of assault rifles was just the beginning of a crusade to wipe out guns.
"It's something you really have to think about," McHenry said. "Are they going to ban baseball bats, too?"
Fred Davoli, who runs Lunker Guide Service at Raystown Lake, sees the need to take every measure to protect children in school, but had a hard time connecting the dots between gun ownership by responsible sportsmen and school violence.
"Protect our kids at all costs, I don't care what it takes," said Davoli, who has three grandchildren from ages three to six.
"We can't blame everything that happens in this country on a gun."
The Early Bird Sports Expo aims to celebrate everything positive about the outdoors. Vendors range from taxidermists to guide services. There are opportunities to earn kids' interest with a fishing pond and an archery clinic.
And while the Bloomsburg show was was successful without the presence of assault rifles, Davoli thought the Harrisburg show wouldn't have been viable this year without the boycotting vendors.
"For them to ban the ammunition and gun sales at the last minute. â¦ This was something that should have been looked at in the future for the following show," he said.
Davoli has had a booth at the Harrisburg show before, but prefers smaller shows where he can talk to people before they're hurried along.
"I've been there in the past and it's a huge show," he said. "Sometimes it gets so crowded at that show you can't take the time to talk to people because they're getting pushed through, but it's a tremendous show for vendors who sell sporting goods equipment."
Still, he believes the one year hiatus may not be enough to completely wound the Harrisburg show, provided that a change takes place, namely moving the show out of the hands of Reed Exhibitions, a British company which runs just 34 shows, and only one outdoors show, in the United States, according to the company's website.
"I believe the show will be back," Davoli said. "It may not be the same promoter. A lot of people didn't know it was a British company. People might say we threw them out of the country once, we can do it again."
But for now, sportsmen still have other shows to whet their appetites for their next season. The 28th annual Allegheny Sport and Travel Outdoor Show near Pittsburgh, scheduled for the middle of February, is set to remain the same without changes, according to Davoli, and the Greater Philadelphia Outdoor Sportshow is also in mid-February.