Crowd at the NRA Great American Outdoor Show.
There was so much to see and do at the NRA's 2020 Great American Outdoor Show (GAOS), which more than 175,000 people attended. I attended on the last Saturday of the show, my first time to go. With three kids under age 5 in tow, my group was focused on what might interest youth participants, and we weren’t disappointed.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pa.—where GAOS is held every year—had 24 indoor acres packed with exhibitors, displays, seminars, and activities for all ages and outdoor interests.
Walking into the Shooting Sports Hall, we were greeted by off-road vehicles, trucks, tractors, and the like—all of which you could get in to “drive.” The two 3-year-old boys, who couldn’t have been happier, would have gladly stayed in that section all day.
Our next stop was the food area, though, so we didn’t let them linger too long. This area turned out to be nearly as long as the shooting hall itself—filled with food trucks and every kind of goodie you can imagine, with plenty of seating to enjoy it all.
Hunger sated, we walked all the way across the show complex to the Eddie Eagle Kid’s Zone. Taking a quick spin around while the kids romped on the playground in the middle, I saw multiple tables offering Eddie Eagle’s important safety information and giveaway items, face painting, basketball hoops, Skee-Ball lanes, a table for the Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC), and little tables full of building blocks and big checkerboards. A nice blue canopy covered the area, which dampened the fluorescent lighting and thus made it feel more pleasant and soothing (an important factor for young children).
Leaving the rest of my party in the Kid’s Zone, I wandered out to enjoy the exhibits. I found great activities for youth spread all throughout the show, like the Kid’s Casting Contest and Kid’s Trout Pond for young fishers, or the NRA Air Gun Range. The HAWG Tank would also be a huge attraction for children. (It’s not every day you see a semi-truck trailer converted into an aquarium!) The Dock Dogs would be great for children as well, but their exhibit had packed up to make space for the NRA Country Concert featuring Chris Janson later that night, so I couldn’t look in on it this time.
I toured seemingly endless booths displaying products for shooting, hunting, fishing, boating, camping, archery, and every accessory you could possibly need for any outdoor activity. I lingered over the Wall of Guns, asked questions of the product representatives on hand, purchased a few items, and made a long list of items to buy later.
“There’s a little bit of everything,” one attendee said. “I was open-minded, wanted to check out some of the vendors, see what they have to offer, see the new technology, and all that stuff.”
He added that he’d driven two hours to get to the show. “I’ve never been here before, but I’m a Lifetime Member of the NRA,” he said. “I received the emails and decided to come check it out this year. Glad I did!”
I felt the same way, and I saw smiling faces everywhere I looked. Attendees were excited to get their hands on the products and test them out, to be able to ask questions of the exhibitors and experts directly, to get their children more involved in outdoors activities, to learn in the seminars and to be entertained, and just to have the opportunity to be around other outdoors enthusiasts.
It’s easy to see why the Great American Outdoor Show is so popular and why people come back year after year.