January 09, 2024
There are few photos that more clearly identify a city landscape than the iconic Gateway Arch near the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis.
If you're a bowhunter expect to see plenty of online photos of the famed arch this week as thousands of archery vendors, shop owners and media members descend upon the city for the Archery Trade Association's 2024 ATA Trade Show. The 26th ATA Show is scheduled Jan. 11-13 at America’s Center exposition venue, showcasing the latest and greatest in bows, arrows, broadheads and a whole lot more.
It's the first time the show has ever visited St. Louis. It's also the furthest west that the show has ever ventured. Previously, the ATA Show has been a staple back east, particularly in Indianapolis, where the show has been held 12 times, including last year.
This year’s show hope to continue its return to normalcy after the Covid-impacted struggles of recent years. Last year’s show in Indy was a step in the right direction with more than 5,300 attendees and 21-percent growth over 2022, show officials say.
What will this week's show in St. Louis bring? That's hard to say with the new venue, looming weather issues and market uncertainties, but ATA officials have indicated in the lead-up to this week's event that numbers have outpaced last year's figure so far.
And to ATA's credit, the organization hasn't dodged some of the tough post-pandemic questions, instead trying to educate attendees on why the show still delivers a punch for both manufacturers and retailers.
In a nod to the rowdy nature of previous shows that were filled with star power in booth events and after-business socials that demanded a tough-to-get ticket, this year's show gets off to a rousing start on Thursday with the second annual ATA's Industry Celebration, presented by Mossy Oak. Meant to provide a night of food, drink, hunting tales, laughing stories and industry networking, the event features country musician Jon Langston—who released his full-length debut album, "Heart on Ice" in September—as the celebration begins at 6 p.m. on Jan. 11 in the America's Center Ballroom.
Familiar industry icon Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland, senior vice president at Mossy Oak, will serve as the event's host. Strickland, of course, is no stranger to Outdoor Sportsman Group fans, having been on numerous Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, and MOTV shows since joining Toxey Haas' Mossy Oak camo crew back in 1988 and serving as its unofficial face and voice ever since.
"We're excited to have Jon, Cuz and Mossy Oak join us for this year's event as we celebrate the industry's accomplishments," said Jeff Poole, ATA's president and CEO, in a news release. "This is sure to be a can't-miss event, and we look forward to seeing all our friends for an evening of fun, food and entertainment."
The show will also bring the 1,000-watt star-power of the Buck Commander crew, a well-known group that includes the likes of country superstars Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, the famous beard-wearing Willie Robertson of Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty fame, and more.
The "Buckmen," also including the likes of Tyler Farr, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Langerhans and Tom "Tombo" Martin, will be participating in the show as business partners to help unveil some new technology being launched at the show by Buck Commander.
"We can't wait for everyone to see the all-new product line Buck Commander is launching at the 2024 ATA Show in St. Louis," said Ryan Busbice, co-owner of Buck Commander and owner of Barnett Crossbows. "The entire Buck Commander crew is going to be there."
New product news is a mainstay here at Game & Fish Magazine and that's good, because new products continue to be the lifeblood of the ATA Show. And while it's true that some companies have already released new gear in the months leading up to the show, it's also true that the ATA Show remains an exclusive hands-on first-look for hundreds of new products.
Just last year, ATA exhibitors launched more than 120 new items in the show's New Product Launch Showcase, and ATA officials are anticipating similar numbers this year.
One of the company's debuting some new stuff is Morrell Targets, makers of foam and bag targets like the Yellow Jacket series.
"All of our staff here at Morrell Targets are greatly anticipating the coming ATA Show in St. Louis," said Tanner Morrell, marketing director at Morrell Targets, in a news release. "We have two new exciting products that have never been seen before and unique attractions that will thrill any member in attendance. It will be a one-of-a-kind experience ATA members will remember."
All of that's enough to keep luring back faithful show attendees like longtime archery shop owner Orvie Cantrell, Jr. of Big O's Archery in Sherman, Texas. Cantrell has attended every ATA Show but one—and that was the Omicron-affected show in 2022—plus a few more bowhunting industry gatherings that were precursors to the ATA Show.
As an archery shop owner, he continues to believe in what the show offers himself as an archery enthusiast, bowhunting expert—he arrowed a big North Texas buck just prior to Christmas—and small business owner. Operating his Red River Valley archery shop since the 1980s, Cantrell can do business virtually, but he still prefers to see products in person, get his hands on them and ask tough questions of manufacturers.
Why? Because when he orders it and carries it in his shop, he wants to be able to look a customer in the eye a few weeks and months later and confidently tell them that he's got the best gear and the right solutions for the problems they are facing in the field.
With a promising week ahead under the Gateway Arch, stay tuned to gafmag.com this week for the latest from the 2024 ATA Show.