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Local outdoor show set; counterpart sparks controversy

| Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Only once has there been controversy surrounding the Allegheny Sport, Travel and Outdoor Show.

There was a year when one of the trucks displayed at the show that's all about hunting, fishing and the outdoors featured leather seats. That drew protests from animal rights activists.

“Out of all that we had, that's the one thing they were upset about, was the leather seats,” said Chris Fassnacht, manager for Expositions Inc., which puts on the show that this year will be held at Monroeville Expo Mart from Wednesday through Sunday, Feb. 13 to 17.

Things are much different this year at another show, the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show.

It's annually the largest outdoor show held on the East Coast, and can usually be counted on to draw tens of thousands of people. This year's version is set to be held at the State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg from Feb. 2 to 10.

But some are calling for a boycott of it. And they are sportsmen themselves.

The reason is tactical guns. Reed Exhibitions, organizer of the show, has decided not to allow exhibitors to sell those “black” firearms at the show. Reed said in an official statement that it strongly supports the Second Amendment.

“However, this year we have made the decision not to include certain products that in the current climate may attract negative attention that would distract from the strong focus on hunting and fishing at this family-oriented event and possibly disrupt the broader positive experience of our guests,” it added.

The decision will impact fewer than a half dozen of the show's 1,200 exhibitors. Still, message boards, social media sites such as Facebook and other venues have featured comments from sportsmen calling for a boycott.

The Allegheny Sport show does not this year, nor has it ever, had tactical firearms, Fassnacht said. Those exhibitors typically attend a separate gun show held in Monroeville each year.

What the Allegheny show will have is more seminars on more topics than in the recent past, ranging from youth fishing and jigging for bass to dealing with extreme weather and hunting deer in management unit 2B. There will be life jacket and hunting vest giveaways and new exhibitors, like the Pittsburgh Rowing Association. Ranger will debut its first-ever 17- and 18-foot aluminum boats, too.

Admission is $10 for those 13 and older, free to those younger. Discount coupons good for $2 off are available at local McDonald's. Parking is free. Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

“We're pretty excited. It should be a good show,” Fassnacht said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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