Stroudsburg, Monroe County - Some Pocono area businesses are caught in the middle of a fight involving gun rights.
A show billed as the largest consumer outdoor show in the country has banned some legal guns and ammunition. The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show is scheduled for next month in Harrisburg. People from around the world attend. But now thousands say they will boycott the event
The show organizer, Reed Exhibitions, banned the sale or display of assault rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines. Reed exhibitions said allowing those items could attract negative attention or distract from the family-oriented event. The move appears to have backfired. The ban prompted more than sixty vendors (as of Monday afternoon) to drop out of the show.
Sarkis Tookmanin of Swiftwater said he is "absolutely not" attending the show. "This is a fight right now," he remarked. He explained he's angry the show organizers would not support the right to bear arms. He said, "If the people that are supposed to be supportive of what we are trying to do are not pick and choosing, following the hype, following that type of agenda then it's up to the people to recognize that and not support them."
As of Monday afternoon more than 6,000 people "liked" the "Boycott the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show" page on Facebook. Hunting industry celebrities have dropped out of the event. Businesses are also boycotting. Outdoor supply giant Cabela's pulled its sponsorship. About five-percent of the show's vendors followed.
Many protestors are requesting that people not only boycott the show but that they also boycott vendors who attend. That includes several Pocono businesses. Pocono Raceway, Camelback, and Pocono Whitewater will be attending with the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau. Carl Wilgus runs the bureau. He said, "It's a cost effective way for us to get the Pocono Mountains in front of those outdoor adventure sports enthusiasts."
Wilgus said that businesses pay thousands of dollars to put up displays at the show. He added that many won't be able to afford to drop out. "These political or policy discussions really hurt the business community in general and I don't think anybody is particularly well served by that kind of activity," he said.
Eyewitness News spoke with a hunter who agreed with Wilgus. Shawn Campanaro said he is not fond of the gun ban but that he will still attend the show. He explained that the banned weapons are only a small part of the event and that he is going to look for an outfitter to take a trip with. He said, "I'm not really concerned about the guns."
Many boycotters are angry because the Eastern Outdoor show's website still lists many outdoor industry celebrities and vendors as attending even though they have announced they will not attend.
The show's spokesperson would not comment on that. She said Reed Exhibitions is closed for the Martin Luther King Holiday. She will be speaking with the businesses leaders Tuesday afternoon and expects to release a statement after that.
In the meantime a business has started an online marketplace for vendors who will not attend the show to sell their items. http://mynortheastoutdoors.com/myneod-to-launch-virtual-sports-show-classifieds/