It was a welcome sight to see so many freedom-loving attendees at the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show (GAOS) in Harrisburg, Pa., last week.
The show, which was held from Feb. 5-13 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, celebrated hunting, fishing, the firearms industry and countless other outdoor traditions that are treasured by millions of Americans and their families.
Although the show was unfortunately cancelled last year due to local COVID-related governmental restrictions in the Keystone State, this year’s show was back in full force. With more than 1,100 exhibitors at the show, the 2022 edition saw a record-setting turnout of nearly 180,000 in attendance.
“After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Great American Outdoor Show roared back to life welcoming outdoor enthusiasts and vendors from every corner of the globe and gave NRA members and like-minded friends the opportunity to once again gather to celebrate our cherished hunting and outdoor heritage,” said Joseph DeBergalis, Executive Director of NRA General Operations. “Simply put, there is no show in the world of this size and scope, and we are grateful for the continued support of our members, exhibitors, and local partners in south central Pennsylvania.”
As for the show itself, it’s not difficult to see how one could spend hours, if not days, in the various exhibit halls, which included archery, hunting, boating and fishing halls, all in addition to the main exhibit hall.
I tend to walk rather briskly, but the sheer number of attendees slowed my pace to no more than an amble. That’s not to say the lines were inefficient or disorganized, far from it actually, but the incredible number of show goers was something to take note of, especially given the circumstances of recent years. What’s clear, though, is that GAOS is back and Americans were ready for it.
Starting in the main exhibit hall, I recalled my first GAOS years ago and how I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. This year’s show is actually my first event since the outset of the pandemic and I must say that it was phenomenal to see so many in attendance. Although I was attending in a professional capacity, I almost felt like a kid around Christmas time, marveling at the variety of products across the outdoors and firearms industries.
I wasn’t the only one thrilled to be back at GAOS and connecting with people. “With COVID, a lot of people moved to Zoom meeting formats. Now that we’re back, it reinforces why we have these shows. I get to meet people, talk to them and connect with them. It’s much more personal,” Charlie Spires, vice president of Black Rain Ordinance, told America’s 1st Freedom.
Of course, NRA-ILA Grassroots was also in attendance, connecting with the countless attendees and continuing their diligent work in the fight for the very rights that this show celebrates.
After making my rounds in the main exhibit hall, I decided it was time to branch out and see the other ones. On the way, I tasted water buffalo for the first time from Wild Meats, a taste that stuck with me for the rest of the day. It’s little experiences like this that make the show even more delightful.
And how could anyone miss the NRA Foundation’s Wall of Guns? With more than 40 firearms on display, including rifles, pistols and more, you have a chance to win any one of them just by attending the show. All proceeds benefit the NRA Foundation and the future of the shooting sports.
For as much time as I spent in the main hall, I spent as much—if not more—time walking the rest of the 650,000 square feet of exhibit-hall space.
To truly grasp the vastness of the show, I would absolutely recommend spending more than one day, especially with the many events planned throughout the shows nine-day run. These include the 3D Bowhunter Challenge, live fishing demonstrations in the HAWG Tank and my personal favorite, the DockDogs Competition.
And although I don’t have any kids, there’s plenty in store for them as well, so bring the whole family to next year’s show.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing everyone at next year’s show and if you missed out this year, be sure to not make the same mistake twice!