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COVID-19 deprives Las Vegas of a major outdoor convention

COVID-19 has claimed yet another victim from the list of major conventions that visit Las Vegas each year, a loss that has a direct impact on the hunting and recreational shooting industries.

On October 30, the National Shooting Sports Foundation announced its decision to cancel the 2021 edition of the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show, an event expected to draw about 60,000 attendees from around the globe. Known simply as the SHOT Show in industry circles, this event is the single largest show of its kind in the world and has been held in Las Vegas 22 times during its 43 years. The 2021 show would have been number 23.

Though the SHOT Show is an industry trade show and therefore not open to the public, what happens each January in its miles of aisles trickles its way down to every hunter and recreational shooter.

It is the place where manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers and various non-profit organizations gather to celebrate all things firearms related. It also is the place where firearms and outdoor retailers hammer out deals that determine what you will see on store shelves.

“NSSF has remained in constant communication with Nevada officials throughout the year in our planning for the 2021 show. While there has been a concerted effort to expand the allowable levels for large gatherings by the county and state, with positivity rates peaking during our key planning period, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 show,” said NSSF President CEO Joe Bartozzi in a news release.

“Sadly, these spikes are currently transpiring worldwide. Given the sheer complexities, diminishing timeline and immense logistical planning required to conduct a trade show as large as SHOT, NSSF simply could not move forward at this point with so many unknowns and variables.”

As preparations for SHOT 2021 were underway, it became apparent to show organizers that growth in exhibitor numbers warranted a significant expansion of display space beyond that available at the Sands Expo Center. To that end, NSSF had secured additional floor space at the new Caesars Forum, and three months out from the planned January show date, all available space was nearly sold out.

“All of this positions us for a 2022 SHOT Show that will be undoubtedly the best in our industry’s history. We look forward to bringing our entire community together again at a show that will be one to remember,” Bartozzi said.

Plans call for the 2022 SHOT Show to return to its Las Vegas home, which should be good news for folks at the Sands Expo Center, Caesars and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. In 2019, the SHOT Show contributed more than $88 million in non-gaming revenue to the Las Vegas economy.

In the meantime, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers and various non-profit organizations that normally attend SHOT will find a way to conduct business via the internet and other avenues that will insure the firearms industry continues to grow and meet the needs of firearms enthusiasts. But missing will be the splash that normally accompanies the introduction of new products at the show, which is covered by more than 2,500 journalists.

While COVID-19 has caused SHOT and other outdoor industry shows to cancel or reschedule their events, organizers of the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo are still planning to open its doors Feb. 11-14 in Salt Lake City.

As part of the event, hunters can apply for their choice from a list of 200 Utah premium, limited entry and once-in-a- lifetime hunting permits through a public drawing. The cost is just $5 per hunt unit application. This year applications may only be submitted online. But to be included in the drawing, applications must be validated in person at the Expo. Applications should be available sometime in December.

Sponsored by the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish Wildlife, the Expo includes a showroom floor where attendees can talk with outdoor retailers and manufacturers, guide services, wildlife agencies from around the West and view other hunting related exhibits. The event also includes auctions and hunting seminars.

More information is available at https://huntexpo.com/ , including plans for addressing COVID-19 needs and mandates.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com

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