October 15, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
Not long after the Game & Fish editorial crew put the finishing touches last January on covering the 2020 ATA Show in downtown Indianapolis, the uncomfortable realization began to hit home that the rest of the year would hardly be business as usual.
As words and phrases like pandemic, COVID-19, social distancing, lockdowns, masks and face coverings, and flattening the curve became a part of our daily vernacular, the world was changing at warp speed before our very eyes by the middle of March.
In the weeks and months that have unfolded since then, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has sickened millions, led to sobering death tolls, and caused a massive disruption to daily life and financial stability as we once knew it, even in the outdoors world.
Now, it seems uncomfortably obvious that the effects of the pandemic won’t end with the coming New Year, as life looks to be different deep into 2021 and perhaps well beyond that.
That idea remains true in the hunting and fishing world, where a rash of 2020 outdoor event cancellations is now spilling over into next year as news comes that the plug has been pulled on the first big event of 2021, the annual Archery 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 to find a way to hold the show—which would have been the organization’s silver anniversary event 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, not only in regards to health protocols, but also in terms of a quality event.
“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.
“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 added. “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.”
While the bowhunting trade show is well attended and a fixture on the archery industry’s calendar every January—not to mention the editorial space here at Game & Fish—ultimately, the continuing crisis and its health measures had to win out as they did with the previous cancellations of the NRA Annual Meeting, the Pope and Young Club convention, the ICAST fishing trade show, the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show, and a host of other outdoor industry events scrubbed earlier this year.
“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, had to come 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 Game & Fish editors did with virtual 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’ time.
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.
If virus conditions allow for it, 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.”
Even so, the 2021 ATA Show will go on, albeit in a virtual sense. And as has been the case in years past, you can count on Game & Fish to bring you the latest news concerning the bowhunting industry as well as what’s new to the archery marketplace early next year.
“While all of us at Game & Fish are disappointed in being unable to attend and report on the ATA Show in person, we respect ATA’s difficult decision and recognize its concern for the well-being of the industry,” said Adam Heggenstaller, Game & Fish editorial director. “The good news is there will be new bowhunting and archery gear in 2021, and we are more dedicated to covering these products than ever. While COVID-19 certainly presents challenges, it also gives us an opportunity to make even greater efforts in delivering information to bowhunters and archery enthusiasts in ways that are both engaging and convenient to access.”