Working Together to Make the Great American Outdoor Show even Greater
2015 Great American Outdoor Show
RMEF booth at its first PA show
As the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation approaches its 31st anniversary, it’s fresh off its 27th year of exhibiting at the nation’s largest sport and outdoor show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. That longevity and dedication establishes RMEF as a key ground level supporter and tenant at what is now known as the Great American Outdoor Show.
What began as a homemade display in a 10’x10’ space that recruited about 40 members a year, the RMEF’s booth has grown into one of the most attractive and largest displays in a show that features more than a 1,000 exhibitors. RMEF now signs up well over 300 members every year. Why the uptick in recruitment? The equation is a simple one. RMEF volunteers + cooperative effort + enthusiasm = success!
“We have a great time working the show to raise money for RMEF’s mission and growing Team Elk,” said Grant Bollen, Harrisburg Chapter chair.
The annual nine-day show involves coordination with several Pennsylvania and Maryland chapters. It requires two daily shifts of at least four volunteers per shift. The job of staffing the show is coordinated through Pennsylvania State Chairman Ben Hoffman who, along with Bollen, works with volunteers from the Baltimore Chapter in Maryland and the Chambersburg, Reading, West Chester, Bloomsburg, York and Harrisburg Chapters in Pennsylvania. Cooperation between chapters is especially vital because the Harrisburg Chapter holds its annual banquet on the first Saturday of the show at the designated show hotel.
“We have a great staff and the volunteers from the participating chapters enjoy getting together and renewing old friendships, and meet new folks joining the RMEF for the first time. Memories flow and the hunting and travel stories are plentiful.”
None of the success would be possible without the cooperation received from the National Rifle Association.
“Having the NRA’s support for the Great Elk Tour in which we utilize 1,400 square feet of floor space in a sold-out show for exhibitors is critical for our success,” said Dave Ragantesi, RMEF senior regional director. “The show itself is a true representation of what outdoor enthusiasts come to expect in an outdoor show and the relationship we have with our conservation partners at the NRA is outstanding.”
In fact, that was demonstrated front and center when Ragantesi and Hoffman were invited to join several NRA and elected public leaders for a special ribbon cutting ceremony to open the 2015 Great American Outdoor Show.
The show itself is an overall testament to what can happen when conservationists, organizations, outdoor enthusiasts, business and government can do when they work together. Two years ago, the show was cancelled by the previous show promoter triggering an $80 million loss of revenue in central Pennsylvania. In just two years since the NRA took over as the new promoter, the show is better than ever.
“Having attended the show nearly every year since I was 10-years-old, to working the show professionally as an exhibitor nearly every year since 1990, I have seen a noticeable increase in its quality in just two short years,” added Ragantesi.
New in 2015 was the return of the RMEF Great Elk Tour. The display was a popular gathering site for attendees and is scheduled to return to Harrisburg in 2016. It will feature a Pennsylvania bull that rivals the size and quality of elk found anywhere in North America.
“The Pennsylvania Game Commission is allowing RMEF to use this particular bull because it was poached in 2015. Featuring it on the Great Elk Tour is yet another way to promote ethics, conservation and further promote our great partnership with the commission,” added Ragantesi.
When the calendar page eventually flips to 2016, you can bet the RMEF and its passionate volunteers will be on hand for a 28th year in Harrisburg. Their cooperative effort is yet another reason why the Great American Outdoor Show will be even greater.
RMEF Senior Regional Director (E. PA, MD, NJ, DE)