This weekend, I attended the National Rifle Association’s 4th annual Great American Outdoor Show (GAOS). This year’s event took place from February 4-12, 2017. It first launched in 2014 and has seen great success since its inception.
GAOS will have an estimated $80 million impact on the surrounding Harrisburg-Hershey areas. Per NRA’s estimates, they project over 200,000 people in attendance at this year’s conference. Over 1,100 exhibitors from across the U.S., Canada, and even outside of North America were in attendance. 475 outfitters–which comprise roughly 40 percent of exhibitors–were also in attendance. Cost of attendance was free for those who renewed their NRA memberships (minimum $35) while daily admission was $6 for kids and $14 for adults.
There were many themed exhibit halls available for conference goers to traverse–including ones for Archery, Boats, Fishing, Hunting Outfitters, Outdoor Products, RVs, and the Shooting Sports. It was nearly impossible to visit all exhibitors and halls, but I managed to scout the boating, fishing, hunting, and shoot sports ones.
The eight-day long conference takes place at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA–which boasts over 650,000 square feet of convention space. (It’s about a 2 hour and 20 minute drive north of Washington, D.C.) As an avid angler and gun enthusiast, I’d been eyeing this conference since I moved to the East Coast. I’ve attended both SHOT Show in Las Vegas and last year’s NRA Annual Meetings in Louisville, KY, but this show was definitely unique. As event organizers suggest, this is the largest consumer hunting and fishing show outdoors enthusiasts can attend. Country singers Dustin Lynch, Granger Smith, and Tara Thompson headlined a country show Saturday evening, so that was also a good draw for conference attendees.
Compared to other conferences-which tend to be more technical (not a bad thing, either)-this is a great family-friendly event for all ages. What did I love about attending the most? People of all ages and backgrounds here in attendance. Why? The Great Outdoors unites everyone and brings Americans together.
The Great American Outdoor Show was perhaps the largest outdoor expo I’ve been into in terms of attendance. At times, it was nearly impossible to walk the conference center because it was so crowded! Although a minor convenience, it was a good indication of the show’s success.
Below are some social media posts from the event – courtesy of yours truly, event goers, and event organizers:
— Great American Outdoor Show (@NRA_GAOS) February 10, 2017
— Outdoor Channel (@OUTDChannel) February 11, 2017
— It’s Just Jenn (@JennJacques) February 11, 2017
View this post on Instagram
Birds of Prey at @greatamericanoutdoorshow 🦉🦉🦉🦉| Probably one of the coolest things I saw today in PA #videoftheday #hawks #falcons #owls #birdsofprey #birdsofinstagram #predators #birdsofprey #gao2017 #greatamericanoutdoorshow #visitpa #visitharrisburg #latergram #dailydoseofcute
— Gabriella Hoffman (@Gabby_Hoffman) February 12, 2017
— NRA Blog (@NRAblog) February 9, 2017
— Cameron Gray (@Cameron_Gray) February 6, 2017