When Petersen’s Bowhunting editor Christian Berg and crew packed up last January in downtown Indianapolis, there were a lot of smiles after a week of hard week covering all that was new in the world of bowhunting for the year 2020.
Against that backdrop, the Bowhunting crew headed for the Indy airport, having every reason to believe that they’d be back a year later in January 2021 to see what else the bowhunting industry could cook up and show off on the show floor of the spacious Indiana Convention Center. It was to be the 25th anniversary edition of the Archery Trade Show.
Unfortunately, that was then and this is now, and the COVID-19 pandemic era is still unfolding across America and the rest of the world.
On Wednesday, October 14, 2020, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak served notice that even with the changing of the calendar year in a few weeks, normalcy hasn't returned quite yet, even for those who love to bowhunt and tinker with new archery gear.
“Despite the combined efforts of the Archery Trade Association Board of Directors, staff and the city of Indianapolis, your ATA Board of Directors made the tough decision to cancel the in-person 2021 ATA Trade Show, scheduled to take place Jan. 7-9, 2021, in Indianapolis,” said ATA president and CEO Matt Kormann in a news release.
While ATA and its partners had worked diligently to try and find a way to hold the show — which would have been the organization’s silver anniversary event and the 12th time the ATA Show had been hosted in Indianapolis — the restrictions and challenges eventually proved to be too much to overcome.
That left Berg and his Outdoor Sportsman Group colleagues understanding the decision, but still disappointed in an outcome that no one wanted or anticipated a few months ago.
“Given the ongoing pandemic, the ATA’s decision was not a surprise,” said Berg. “However, it is a big disappointment. ATA is the one time each year the entire archery and bowhunting communities gather together under one roof, and I’m sincerely going to miss the camaraderie and opportunity to reunite with so many old friends.”
Unfortunately, health concerns, as well as the Archery Trade Association’s commitment to putting on a quality event, forced the cancellation in the end.
“We hold the ATA Trade Show to an extremely high standard, and it became clear that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we wouldn’t be able to provide the trade show environment that you’ve all come to expect and enjoy,” said Kormann.
“Our goal is to deliver a first-class event that helps the archery and bowhunting industry succeed, while keeping health and safety as a top priority, and we share your disappointment over the outcome of this year’s Show,” he added. “We would like to express our thanks and gratitude to all ATA members who booked booth space and registered to attend the Show through these unprecedented times. Your passion for this industry is evident.”
While the bowhunting trade show is well attended and a fixture on the archery industry’s calendar every January, ultimately, the continuing crisis and its health measures won out as they did with the previous cancellations of the NRA Annual Meetings, the Pope and Young Club convention, the ICAST fishing trade show, the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show, and other outdoor industry events scrubbed earlier this year.
“This was a very difficult decision to make, but as a father and a small business owner, we need to look out for the health and safety of our members’ staff and their families,” said Mark Copeland, chairman of the Board for ATA and store director for Jay’s Sporting Goods.
With the economy struggling to rebound after the quarantines and lockdowns put in place by government leaders earlier this year, financial implications of putting on the show, as well as traveling to Indy and attending the show, had to come into play as well.
“At some point, you have to ask yourself, ‘What’s the long-term impact of a Show with less than 50% attendees and vendors?’,” said Copeland. “It’s the Board of Directors responsibility to look out for the industry, and as painful as this decision was to make, I believe it’s the right one.”
Jeff Adee, co-chair of the ATA Board of Directors and president of Headhunter Bow Strings, agreed with his colleague, noting that some in the industry have been sickened by the virus or have even lost loved ones to the deadly plague. Add in the financial repercussions brought about by this unprecedented year and the cancellation decision, while regrettable, eventually became inevitable.
“The Show is a significant expense and many exhibitors are faced with a tough decision to attend during these difficult times, especially without knowing what the next 90 days look like,” said Adee. “Therefore, the value of the Show would greatly diminish for all those involved.”
As officials with the American Sportfishing Association and Outdoor Sportsman Group did with virtual and television presentations of this summer’s ICAST Show, the ATA now turns its attention to putting on a virtual event in about 90 days.
As those virtual show plans are formulated and announced, Kormann noted that ATA members and show attendees will be receiving info in the coming weeks concerning educational opportunities, show purchase specials, industry awards, and refunds from the in-person show that has now been canceled.
The plan is for the ATA Show to return to an in-person event in 2022, with the event scheduled to visit Louisville, Ky. for the fifth time.
“When I look to 2022, I know that we can continue to host an event that the industry is proud of,” said James McGovern, co-chair of the Board of Directors and owner and marketing director of Rinehart Targets. “For me, that is what drove this decision. It came down to the continued viability of the ATA to serve the industry.
“I know that the ATA leadership team can navigate the organization to 2022 and I believe that we can host as great an event as you have come to expect,” he continued. “What I didn’t know was what would the ATA show look like in 2022 if we hosted an event in 2021 that did not live up to the standards our industry has come to know and appreciate.
“Canceling the show was difficult, but knowing that this was the right decision is not.”
Even so, Berg noted that all the show cancellation did for him is to ensure that the mission of Petersen’s Bowhunting is more important than ever before as readers try to make wise decisions about where to spend their hard earned dollars in the bowhunting and archery marketplace.
“As for Petersen’s Bowhunting, I believe the ATA cancellation makes our job more important than ever,” said Berg. “As ‘The Modern Bowhunting Authority,’ bowhunters across America count on us to provide the most comprehensive gear coverage anywhere across our print, digital and social media platforms.
“With no trade show being held in 2021, the entire Bowhunting team is committed to working harder than ever to ensure our audience has all the information they need about new products that can help them be more successful in the field.”
Jeff Waring, longtime Outdoor Sportsman Group publisher and the man at the helm of OSG’s Harrisburg, Pa. office where Petersen’s Bowhunting is headquartered, agrees.
“While we’re disappointed about the show’s cancellation, we’re not surprised,” said Waring. “We’re ready to handle the situation and are working harder than ever before to bring our audience the very best the Archery Industry has to offer for ’21.”
In other words, stay tuned. The 2021 ATA Show might not be in person any longer thanks to the coronavirus, but the show goes on in the virtual world — a place we’ve all become more accustomed to this year.
And that means that the work of the Petersen’s Bowhunting crew has only just begun, even if they won’t head to the airport a few weeks from now in early January.