Many anglers, hunters, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts look forward to this time of year, because it is when all the different sportsmen shows in the Northwest get underway. The shows are anticipated and welcomed as a respite to the sometimes never-ending winter, when there is just not much to do outdoors.
In most years, there is a show happening just about every weekend someplace in the region, starting in late January and running through March. They’re definitely a prescription to help overcome the malaise of cabin fever.
Unfortunately, this year, there will be no shows, or darned few anyway, thanks to COVID-19. Some show producers are still trying to rescue their shows, but if they do happen to get approval to go, they most likely won’t occur until late March at the earliest.
For now, the Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima, and the Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show in Pasco will not happen this year. The annual shows have been ongoing for over 30 years.
Merle and Bev Shuyler, producers of the popular local shows, worked hard to try to make something happen, appealing to local authorities to let the shows proceed. They believed if they could get the shows classified as a retail buying place, which most consumer shows are, they would be able to have show-goers walking up and down the aisles, just like people do at the big box stores.
Their plan was shot down, which is not only unfortunate for them, but for all of us who enjoy spending the day at the shows, looking at the many booths, boats, ATVs and other fun stuff.
What I am going to miss the most is the personal interaction with all the friends and acquaintances that sometimes I only see once a year. Especially this year, when the opportunity to talk and meet with people has been reduced to almost nothing, we could all use a big meeting place where we can gather to shoot the bull.
Of course with the potential spread of the virus, big meeting places are out and we’ll have to wait until next year. The Shuylers are committed to bringing the Yakima and Tri-Cities Shows back in 2022, so hopefully things will have returned to some kind of normalcy then.
The folks at the O’Loughlin Trade Shows, producers of the big shows in Puyallup and Portland, are still trying to make their events happen this spring. They’ve moved their show dates back into late March and, according to their website, they are proceeding as if the shows will happen.
Rumor has it that they have worked out a plan with the authorities in Oregon to make the show in Portland happen, but the Washington show is still questionable. Their website says they are “assessing the situation daily” and they “fully intend to produce all of their shows, just differently than in previous years.”
It sounds like if they are able to go forward, the shows, and how the attendees take them in, will be very different than before. The Portland show is traditionally the second largest outdoor show in the country, drawing tens of thousands of people daily. During some days in the past there were so many people in the aisles you could hardly turn around. That will not be allowed under any circumstances in the current coronavirus environment, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
Another popular outdoor show, the Bighorn Show in Spokane, the original outdoor show in Washington, has also been canceled this year. The show was set to celebrate their 60th anniversary in March, but officials decided to cancel the event due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus restrictions.
I hope the big shows in Puyallup and Portland are able to proceed in some manner this year because for many of us the shows are a fun little adventure. Frankly, I set aside a little bit of money each year and look forward to spending it on the special deals on fishing tackle, rods, reels and other great outdoor stuff at each of the shows.
I personally am missing our local shows and look forward to when we can gather again. Luckily, there will be some actual outdoor activities to be enjoyed in the days and weeks ahead.
Another shameless plug
The second novel in my Luke McCain mystery series is now available at Inklings Bookshop and at several local Ace Hardware stores around the area. Called Cascade Vengeance, the book follows Washington Department Fish and Wildlife police officer Luke McCain and his trusty companion, a yellow Lab named Jack, as they try to figure out who is killing the workers in the illegal pot grows sprinkled around the mountains west of Yakima.
Cascade Vengeance is also available in paperback and e-book format for Kindle on Amazon and will be released soon on Audible.
• Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org