Mark your calendar for Feb. 3-11, the dates for the largest consumer outdoors show in the world.
The Great American Outdoor Show rolls into the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg and it’s the most comprehensive outdoor show you’ll ever attend. For us folks here in the Southeast, we refer to this extravaganza as “the Harrisburg show” because it’s been well known over the years and there’s none like it or even comes close to it.
The show covers 650,000 square feet of indoor space, has more than 1,100 exhibitors, more than 400 outfitters including fishing charter captains, and draws an attendance of nearly 200,000 folks over its nine-day run.
And since the NRA took over management of the show, it now hosts practically every major firearms manufacturer displaying their latest lines be it handguns, shotguns, rifles and modern sporting arms.
The “Harrisburg” show features a little bit of everything, and a lot of everything. From firearms to trucks, boats, archery gear, RVs, ATVs and a series of contests and kid’s events.
A sampling of this years show features some familiar events such as DockDogs, 3D Bowhunter Challenge, Wall of Guns (where you can buy a chance to win one), Friends of NRA Banquet, arena shows such as Randy Oitker’s World Record Archery Trick Shooting, and NRA’s Country Concert, this year featuring Granger Smith, Nate Hosie, Earl Dibbles Jr. and LOCASH, all popular country music entertainers (show tickets may be purchased in advance online or call 800-514-3849).
If you’re a bowhunter or archer, one nicety of the show is that you can try out a bow, be it compound, crossbow, recurve or PCP, before you buy. The vast archery section will have the gamut of major bowhunting equipment manufacturers offering everything from bows to treestands and then some.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the host of free seminars, celebrity appearances, fundraising dinners and speaking events. All listed on the shows website www.greatamericanoutdoorshow.org.
Some patrons plan vacation days around the show because as customary, the weekdays are less crowded than weekends - although certain weekdays are just as packed.
Kids will be entertained by the Eddie Eagle booth, Kids Casting Contest, BB gun range, paintball range, face painting and live birds of prey display.
If you’re handicapped or have a tough time walking the myriad of displays, scooters and wheelchairs are available for rental.
Food and drink concessions are scattered throughout the show with seating areas reserved for food patrons so you don’t have to stand and eat.
Show hours are Feb. 3, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Feb. 4, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Feb 5-9, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Feb. 10, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.; and Feb. 11, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Here’s a tip for those looking to buy equipment. Attending the show on the last day often brings special discounts as many vendors would rather sell at an attractive discount, than take gear back, some having to ship their products.
Tickets can be ordered online to avoid standing in the ticket purchase lines and prices are Adult $14: Child (6-12) $7: Seniors (65 and older) $12.00: 2-Day passes: $24: Group ticket $12 (10 or more). Join the NRA on-site and you get free admission.
Parking is offered on-site ($10) or several off-site areas that offer shuttle buses to and from the show. Consult the shows’ website for locations and times. The Farm Show Complex is located at 2300 Cameron Street, Harrisburg, Pa 17110. The show is co-sponsored by Cabela’s and Ram Trucks.
Incidentally, the NRA puts its money where it’s mouth is as they’re donating more than $17,000 to Central Pennsylvania Outdoors Organizations. These are organizations that promote the outdoor lifestyle through educational and recreational activities and empower youth participation in the shooting sports. The beneficiaries are as follows:
The Pennsylvania Dutch Council of Boy Scouts of America in Lancaster ($6,547); Wildlife Leadership Academy in Lewisburg ($5,681); Wilkes-Barre Rifle and Pistol Club of Hunlocks Creek ($4,432); and Lebanon Valley Sportsmen Association of Robesonia ($1,050).
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.