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Illinois hunting and fishing

Susanne and Keith Siebert install an elk mount in their booth at the Field & Stream Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo Thursday afternoon. The show opens Friday.

Vendors find home here after Pa. show postponed

February 01, 2013 at 07:40 AM

The State Journal-Register

Pennsylvania’s loss is Springfield’s gain.

When the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa., originally scheduled to open Saturday, was postponed indefinitely, Keith and Susanne Siebert got on the phone and started looking for another show to attend.

They settled on Springfield. And so did 15 to 20 others.

The Sieberts were setting up their booth at the Field & Stream Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo Thursday afternoon in preparation for a 2 p.m.opening Friday at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

The couple runs a guided elk hunting business near Canyon City, Colo., called Black Canyon Bulls at Top Rail Ranch.

“Elk hunting is primarily what we do,” Keith said. “We provide guide service, lodging, meals, licenses, the whole turn-key thing for 35 to 70 hunters a year.”

During the off-season, they hit the outdoors show circuit to meet face-to-face with potential customers and tell them about elk hunting opportunities in Colorado.

“We left home the first of January and we went to Dallas, went to Sacramento, Nebraska and Ohio,” Susanne said as Keith re-attached antlers to an elk mount.

“Then we were supposed to go the Harrisburg show,” Keith said.

Gun-ban boycott

In an attempt to avoid controversy, organizers of the Harrisburg show found it.

Reed Exhibitions decided to ban the display of assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines in an effort to stay out of the crosshairs of the gun-control debate.

Instead, the company faced a vendor boycott, including outdoors retailing giant Cabela’s.

“Cabela’s was one of the first to boycott, and they are one of their big sponsors,” Keith said. “They said, you can’t have a hunting show and tell us what to do and step on our Second Amendment rights.”

The Sieberts said they figured the money they paid for their booth space in Harrisburg was gone.

“We were completely paid up, but we just got an e-mail today saying they are going to pay us back,” Keith said. “When we (pulled out of) the show, we basically boycotted and we figured we would never get it back.”

The Deer & Turkey Expo’s executive director, Glenn Helgeland, said he wasn’t sure exactly how many vendors, manufacturers and others switched to Springfield.

“There were a bunch of them,” he said. “I don’t know the exact number, but I would say 15 to 20.

“It was kind of flattering because there were other shows going on (around the country), but we were the one they called first when their weekend freed up.”

250 booths

Keith said he and Susanne were busy trying to make other arrangement by phone while they were on the road.

“This one was filling in very rapidly,” Keith said. “We looked at this one Tuesday morning as we were driving. By that time, everybody was looking for a new home.”

Helgeland said many of the vendors at this weekend’s three-day show are “mom and pop” businesses like the Sieberts.

“We’ve got a lot of exhibitors that this is their second job,” he said. “Some of them drove most of the night last night, caught a little sleep when they came in and came over to set up and are still shy on sleep.

“But they will be ready to rock tomorrow afternoon.”

Helgeland said the exhibit floor of the PCCC is sold out with 250 booths.

Seminars, trophy deer displays, and a new display of bucks with locked antlers will be on the lower level.

“In many ways, the guts of the show is downstairs,” he said. “I only wish the building was bigger because we are filling it in our very first year.”

The expo moved to Springfield this year from Peoria, where the convention center couldn’t accommodate the event’s preferred dates.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

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