Estimate shows increase in attendance at Outdoor Show

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Feb 19, 2014 2:29 PM

(Harrisburg) -- The Great American Outdoor Show is estimated to have generated some $35 million in direct spending to the region. Unlike the operator of the previous Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, the National Rifle Association is making attendance public.

From February 1st through the 9th, about 171,000 people walked the grounds of the State Farm Complex in Harrisburg for the first Great American Outdoor Show.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

"I mean we'd have to believe so, based on what the numbers were previously, or what we believe they might have been, so yeah, I would say it has to be probably some kind of record. But again, nobody knew, so we kinda just start from now and move forward," says Chris O'Hara, show manager for the Great American Outdoor Show.

O'Hara concedes that the ice storm on Wednesday, February 5th impacted attendance. But he says other days with storms did just fine.

"Monday, we had some weather, but it was interesting to talk to the vendors that were there. They say that was probably one of the best sales days because the people that came were dedicated, wanted to be there, and they were spending money. Yeah, it might have negatively affected us one, or maybe two days a little bit, but yeah, it could've been even higher."

O'Hara says a firm attendance number may not be available because of technical issues with barcode readers. Instead, the estimate comes from the number of cars parked in lots surrounding the complex, and assumes four people to a car.


No matter the show, parking at the Farm Show Complex is a issue.

"It's always going to be in the back of somebody's head. But again, we'll come out earlier with better plans, with more information," says O'Hara.

"We'll be able to get people to understand where to go before they even get to that intersection, that's the key. So it's all about education, I believe we learned a lot, I think everybody involved learned a lot, and we'll have an even better plan in place." 

He has confidence organizers will be able to eliminate some bottlenecks, and the issue won't keep people from attending in the future.

Economic impact

According to the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, the $35 million in direct spending translates into a $70 million economic impact for the region, based on a formula used in the industry. The NRA also says it signed up nearly 4,800 attendees as members at the Outdoor Show.

The NRA is hoping to bring in more midstate vendors and manufacturers to future shows and organize more events in the Harrisburg area in the weeks leading up to it.


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