An area radio station has a simple plan for its sports show starting tomorrow at the Carlisle Expo Center.
"If it's legal, we're allowing it at our show," said Kenny Paul, co-host of the morning show “Initial Reaction” on WQLV-FM out of Millersburg. "We're calling it the common sense sportsman's show."
That means attendees at the American Sportsman Outdoors Show can expect to see all types of gear for hunting and the outdoors, including the military-style weapons that prompted controversy earlier this year when Reed Exhibitions announced a ban on those weapons and high-capacity magazines at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show.
“I think they were seizing the moment with all the shootings to make a judgment call, but it was a poor judgment,” Paul said.
The show had been scheduled to run Feb. 2-10 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg but was canceled in the wake of a vendor boycott protesting the decision to ban the weapons.
Paul said the American Sportsman Outdoors Show grew out of audience reaction to Reed Exhibitions’ decision. “All the listeners were outraged,” Paul said.
Paul took the idea of having an alternative show to his boss who made a deal: If the hosts could get 10,000 likes on Facebook, the station would put on the show.
“We ended up getting 11,388,” Paul said. “Now, we broke over 20,000 and it’s climbing.”
Finding a location wasn’t as easy as finding support. Initially, the station secured a wing of the Farm Show Building, but that fell through because Reed Exhibitions still held a contract for the year. Then, they tried two other locations, both of which fell through.
They finally secured the Carlisle Expo Center for the four-day show with only 28 days to pull off the planning.
“Usually this kind of show takes a year of planning or more,” Paul said.
The first step, Paul said, was to print out the list of vendors who had boycotted the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show and invite them to be part of the show in Carlisle. About 25 of them accepted the invitation.
One of them was Ryan Miller of Pennsylvania Whitetail Pursuit.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity this show gives us to help rebound from lost sales from Harrisburg due to the decision Reed Exhibition made, which led to the cancellation of the Eastern Outdoors Show,” Miller said. “We have high hopes that this show will have a great crowd.”
Miller also said he was glad to see there would be no restrictions on the legal firearms that can be displayed at the show — an opinion shared by fellow vendor Steve Kepner of North Mountain Pepper Works of Hughesville.
Kepner said he takes his pepper relishes and sauerkraut to shows every weekend and though he hasn’t seen an increase in attendance at the shows after the cancellation of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, he has had people drop by his booth to support his stand as one who boycotted the show.
Kepner said the show he was at last week in Altoona had four or five vendors selling “machine guns,” which are legal in Pennsylvania if you have the money to buy them, pay the tax on them and pass the background check.
Many of those guns are vintage weapons — World War II era weapons, for example — that will never actually be used. “Most of these guys take stuff home and hang it on the wall,” Kepner said.
Part of the common-sense approach is setting regulations that prohibit loaded firearms in the center and requiring guns on display to be secured. “We are taking all precautions to make sure everyone is safe,” Paul said.
So far, the station hasn’t heard any push back on the decision to allow the guns at the show, but Paul said they are prepared with a security presence if there are protests.
Paul said vendors are coming from as far as Maine, North Carolina and Newfoundland, Canada. “There are 116 spots available inside and we’re about three away from filing it right now,” he said.
Paul said the station has put in a 25-page application to hold the event at the Farm Show Complex next year, but plans to hold the show somewhere even if that doesn’t work out.
The American Sportsman Outdoors Show runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21, to Saturday, March 23, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 24. Admission is $10 and children younger than 12 are admitted free with a paying adult.