Last updated: March 17. 2013 3:08AM - 1415 Views
The Times Leader staff

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The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, one of the biggest expos in the Northeast, has been postponed.

??Reed Exhibitions has decided to postpone, for now, the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show given the controversy surrounding its decision to limit the sale or display of modern sporting rifles (also called ARs) at the event,? a statement from the show's website began. ??The show was scheduled to take place February 2-10 in Harrisburg, PA.?

According to a mynortheastoutdoors.com, more than 300 vendors planned to boycott the event, as well as 44 speakers and celebrities, and 66 organizations. The website claims all boycotters were originally scheduled to be at the expo.

A Facebook page created Jan. 15 called ??Boycott the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show? has more than 18,000 likes in just nine days.

??Our original decision not to include certain products in the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show this year was made in order to preserve the event??s historical focus on the hunting and fishing traditions enjoyed by American families,? said Chet Burchett, Reed Exhibitions President for the Americas, in the release on the show's website. ??In the current climate, we felt that the presence of MSRs would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests. This was intended simply as a product decision, of the type event organizers need to make every day.?

The show's 58th edition was expected to draw the usually tens of thousands of outdoors enthusiasts over it's week-plus run in Harrisburg.

??It has become very clear to us after speaking with our customers that the event could not be held because the atmosphere of this year??s show would not be conducive to an event that is designed to provide family enjoyment,? the statement on the ESOS site continues. ??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.?

The opening of the statement from Reed Exhibitions does give hope for the show to go on -- saying it is off for now -- but with more than 25 percent of expected exhibitors fighting for their right to present certain arms, the conclusion of the statement leaves a more dire view for next month's event.

??ESS has long been proud to participate in the preservation and promotion of hunting and fishing traditions, and we hope that as the national debate clarifies, we will have an opportunity to consider rescheduling the event when the time is right to focus on the themes it celebrates.?

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown, Conn., contracts with Reed Exhibitions to manage its Las Vegas outdoors show. The NSSF released a statement that it was not supportive of the decision to limit weapons at the Harrisburg show, and that it is ??considering all options regarding the management of future SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Shows (in Las Vegas).?

??In the days following Reed Exhibitions?? announcement that modern sporting rifles would be prohibited from the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, the leadership of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has been in intense, frank discussions with Reed Exhibitions management in an effort to reverse this unacceptable decision,? the NSSF statement said. ??These discussions reached an impasse.?

NSSF stated is in no way affiliated with, nor does it participate in or exhibit at the Harrisburg show.
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