Those were the words repeated to me by each exhibitor or attendee with whom I conversed throughout Day Four of the Great American Outdoor Show. I haven’t felt this approved of since I volunteered to sort my oldest brother’s baseball card collection (in the 1970s…). Hmmm. This show could be good for my ego. And all I have to do is walk around sporting an "NRA Staff" badge? I could get used to this.
With great humility, I deflected the gratitude back. After all, they built this show.
From the industry giants down to the smallest of exhibitors like Todd Appelbaum, who owns and operates a free-range ostrich, bison and Berkshire pork farm and was selling jerky, sausage and other products at the show, the mood was overwhelmingly positive and, well, one of just plain happiness. “Everything is better,” said Appelbaum, who does a lion’s share of his business at what used to be the Eastern Sports & Outdoors Show. “The people we worked with this year, the NRA staff… they’re all just nicer,” he said. Appelbaum, like hundreds of other vendors, suffered financially when the show was cancelled in 2013.
And he was right. Things do seem different. Attendees were smiling, maneuvering politely (and excusing themselves when they found themselves impeding traffic), chatty, relaxed. Gosh, where am I? There was an overall sense of relief that the NRA had taken charge of the show, and is making it better than it ever had been.
For Michael Waddell, star of Outdoor Channel’s “Bone Collector,” it goes far deeper than the financial component of keeping a show like this alive. It’s about getting something back for the local people that was taken away, something that means so much.
"Everything seems 'fresher,'” he said, from the vendors to personalities and buyers, and there is a renewed excitement. “[The NRA] buying this show is the best thing that could have happened,” he said.
“When you think about it, the Superbowl of all sporting shows closed down last year, and NRA taking over was the biggest political statement made last year.” He said that every show in North America paid attention to what happened.
“This is a big victory,” he said, “especially for the Second Amendment.”
Victory indeed. For NRA members and outdoorsmen and women everywhere.