HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In its fourth year under the banner of the National Rifle Association, The Great American Outdoor Show continues to feel right at home in Harrisburg.
“We like to think of this as NRA country,” NRA spokesman Jason Brown said. “Within 300 miles of Harrisburg, you’ve got 900,000 NRA members. We like to claim five million NRA members, so within 300 miles of Harrisburg, you’ve got a fifth of our national membership.”
While this is Brown’s first year running the press office inside the massive Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, many of the show’s 1,100 vendors have been coming to Harrisburg for decades.
“This is our 30th year. We come from New Brunswick, Canada to Harrisburg to book some hunters,” said professional guide Hal Kilfillen, whose Salmon River Bend Outfitters specializes in moose, black bear and fishing excursions. “We book all of our trips for the year at this show. If we didn’t do this show, we wouldn’t be in business.”
According to Midstate tourism bureau estimates, The Great American Outdoor Show provides an annual economic boost of at least $75 million. Last year, an estimated 175,000 people paid to walk through the show, stay at local hotels and eat at Harrisburg-area restaurants.
“We have servers and bartenders that don’t even work here full-time anymore, that would like to come back and work during the week of the outdoor show,” said Dougie Krick, chef at Dodge City Steakhouse on Paxton Street. “Some great clientele that comes in. Fantastic people. And our volume grows at least double.”
To cater to the crowd, Krick has introduced several wild game dishes for the week including wild boar baby back ribs, elk tenderloin, two bone venison rib rack, lamb burger and gator gumbo.
“It’s just a way to play to their tastes as outdoor enthusiasts,” Krick added. “We have fun with it, and they seem to go wild for the food.”
Area hotels are also feeling the impact of the show. An employee of the Hampton Inn and Suites Harrisburg North said rooms are filling up with both vendors planning to stay for the week and nightly visitors who plan to spend a day or two in Harrisburg. A shuttle service will be offered to and from the show from the hotel on Capital Drive.