HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A massive sports and outdoor exhibition, now produced by the National Rifle Association, opens this weekend in Harrisburg, one year after a vendor boycott over a restriction on certain gun sales and displays prompted its predecessor to cancel.
Gov. Tom Corbett is scheduled to cut the ribbon Friday for the nine-day Great American Outdoor Show, an event that organizers say will bring about 1,000 exhibitors and 200,000 people to the Farm Show Complex.
Billed as the nation's largest sports and outdoors exhibition, this year's event will put a greater emphasis on firearms, including a shooting sports hall, said the NRA's Jeremy Greene.
"We're not trying to turn this into a gun show or a firearms-only show — this is an outdoor show," Greene said Thursday. "We're maintaining the camping and fishing and archery and boating halls and exhibits because that's what attendees want to see."
The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show pulled the plug last year after it was crippled by a boycott by hundreds of vendors over a ban on assault weapons in the aftermath of the shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school in which 20 children and six adults were gunned down.
The NRA was a vendor at the show for 35 years, and was chosen from among 19 hopefuls who sought to produce the show for the Farm Show Complex after last year's event was canceled. It has a two-year contract that could be extended.
"We've tried to really look at every single piece of this show and make it better," Greene said.
Greene said the show has an estimated economic impact of about $80 million, including travel costs throughout the region.