As Hunting Season Ends, Tradeshow Season Begins for Ralph and Vicki
As filming for outdoor television shows comes to a close, there's little time to relax with the annual tradeshow season on the horizon for Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo
Watch Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo each week on Outdoor Channel and it would seem as if their lives are all about big bucks, big bulls, big bears and far-flung hunting adventures taken all over North America.
After all, it's part of the occupational territory for the Illinois-based hunting couple that co-hosts the popular Archer's Choice and The Choice television programs.
But come the end of deer season and the passage of the holidays, then comes the other side of their careers as Ralph and Vicki trade in their camouflage gear for business clothes.
That annual transformation happens each year in January with the arrival of the Archery Trade Association's annual ATA Show, a bowhunting tradeshow held not too long after the arrival of New Year's Day.
Days after the curtain falls on the ATA Show in the American Midwest, there's just enough time for the Cianciarulos to head home, wash their clothes and then head west to Las Vegas and the National Shooting Sports Foundation's annual SHOT Show.
While the ATA Show and the SHOT Show are both industry tradeshows that aren't open to the general public, they are closely followed by a number of other wintertime consumer shows that are open to the public at various venues around the country.
And at all of these shows, both trade and consumer, Ralph and Vicki are very busy folks, displaying their trademark smiles, shaking plenty of hands, posing for smartphone selfie photos with fans, signing autographs, talking hunting stories and giving tips and how-to hunting advice.
And that's not to mention the closed-door business meetings, all a part of the hunting industry during a time of year known to many as show season.
"So many great things have happened during all these years (we've been) at the show(s)," said Ralph. "What we love (about January) is meeting the people, seeing our friends from the industry and people watching."
"Yes, people watching," chuckled Ralph. "We have been blessed to be involved full-time in this industry for over 30-plus years now and we have seen a lot of good and bad go on.
"TV has had a positive effect, but in some ways, it's also had a negative effect. We always need to remember who our consumers are, how passionate we all are about this lifestyle and do our very best (during show season) to promote it all in the best light."
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If meeting fans is one component of show season, then so too is the annual get-togethers with sponsors who support Ralph and Vicki’s two popular hunting shows.
"It is very important for us to attend things like the SHOT Show," said Vicki. "We are able to meet and greet dealers from all over the world, we get to see new productthat we might not have seen already and we get to talk with all the employees (at sponsor companies) that we may not already know.
"The thing we need to remember (at the tradeshows) is that the companies are there to sell product (to vendors, stores, etc.), so we have to keep that in mind (each day)."
Ralph agrees, noting that like the other television show hosts on Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel, sponsorships are a part of the industry's lifeblood.
"We're all trying to be sponsored," he said. "If the companies at these shows don't sell their goods, then no one will get sponsored."
In addition to meeting and greeting fans and helping sponsor companies produce plenty of business orders at ATA and SHOT, there's still another side to show season for the Cianciarulos.
"For us, attending (these shows) is (also) about networking," said Ralph.
That can mean connecting with folks like industry outfitters and guides at some of these shows, something that can help Ralph and Vicki finalize their hunting and filming plans for spring, summer and fall trips.
With all three of those components in play each day at the tradeshows – meeting and greeting fans, working with sponsors and networking with outfitters and guides – there's also the side of seeing industry friends and colleagues that aren't seen the rest of the year.
Needless to say, such a busy day-to-day calendar can mean that the winter show season can be long and grinding.
"Yes it can," said Vicki. "Each day starts out pretty early. We normally have breakfast meetings before the show floor opens up, then we head to the show early.
"Once the show opens, we'll walk the floor doing what we do, having sponsor meetings at their booths, attending meet and greet autograph signings and trying to check out all of the new cool stuff that there is to see.
"Once the show is over for the day, then we'll normally have dinner appointments to keep in the evening before finally getting back to our room to clean up, to shower and to go to bed much later than we normally do."
Before setting the alarm clock very early to get up and do it all over again the very next day.
Mind you, neither Ralph nor Vicki are complaining, not even one slight bit. They love the way that they make their living each year and how they get to keep promoting hunting and fishing in a very positive light to fans, consumers and the general public.
Even if navigating the annual show season is a bit more complicated these days than it was when they first got started in this industry a number of years ago.
"The shows – especially SHOT Show – have certainly grown in recent years," said Ralph. "You have to remember my first SHOT Show was back in the early 1980s and there's no doubt that a lot has changed since then.
"It's been awesome to see so many new companies come into our industry each year," he added. "Sure, some of the smaller companies have been bought up by the larger business groups (and things change). But the excitement is always there from year from year.
"And that always make us proud to be part of this great industry, something that we've been blessed to do for so many years now."