October 14, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
Most of the time, a silver anniversary is something that brings lots of smiles to a married couple, a family, a business, or an organization — a much anticipated 25th-year occurrence that brings great planning, lavish celebration and lots of fond memories for years to come.
But the year 2020, as most of us realize by now, is hardly a normal journey through the calendar thanks to a deadly pandemic sweeping the world. It seems like no event or celebration, no matter how much tradition is behind it or keen anticipation there is for what lies ahead, is immune to the coronavirus and its worldwide effects.
With that in mind, after months of hoping to find a way to ensure that the annual bowhunting industry trade show took place this upcoming January in Indianapolis, the inevitable reality of current health restrictions has won out. On Wednesday, the plug was pulled on the annual ATA Trade Show.
“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 25th such trade show overall and the 12th time the ATA Show had been hosted in Indianapolis — the restrictions and challenges brought on by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak eventually proved to be too much to overcome.
“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 in his statement.
“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 continued. “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.”
Longtime Bowhunter editor Curt Wells understands that passion. He also understands the frustration and disappointment that the ongoing virus outbreak has brought to the bowhunting world, at least where industry gatherings and longstanding events are concerned.
For Wells, the ATA cancellation, while understandable, is yet another disappointment in this forgettable year after the Pope and Young Club convention was cancelled last spring just days into the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
“The cancellation of the ATA Show, while predictable in the current environment, is unfortunate, especially for the relatively small archery and bowhunting industry,” said Wells. “Successful business is often built upon relationships, and that is especially true in our industry, which is closer to a hunting camp than a board room.
“Those of us at Bowhunter Magazine will miss seeing all our industry friends in January, but we will certainly stay connected until we can gather again in 2022.”
As with the previous cancellations of the NRA Annual Meetings, the ICAST fishing trade show, the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show, and other outdoor industry events scrubbed earlier this year, organizers of the ATA Show didn’t want to pull the plug until the virus left them with no other viable option.
“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, came 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, online, 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 cancelled.
Plans are for the ATA Show to return to an in-person event in 2022, with the show 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.”
Now that the 2021 ATA Show has been changed from in-person to virtual, the work begins to pull off a successful presentation of everything that’s new in the world of bowhunting and the gear that all modern and traditional stick-and-string enthusiasts love.
“While we’re disappointed about the show’s cancellation, we’re not surprised,” said longtime Bowhunter publisher Jeff 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 look different, but the Bowhunter mission remains the same — pandemic or not.