"In the current climate, we felt that the presence of MSRs would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests," Chet Burchett, president of Reed's Exhibitions for the Americas, which is based in Connecticut, said in a statement. "It has become very clear to us after speaking with our customers that the event could not be held because the atmosphere of this year's show would not be conducive to an event that is designed to provide family enjoyment."
Officials at Reed's U.S. headquarters in Norwalk, Conn. - about 30 miles from Newtown - could not be reached for further comment.
The company had said only a handful of the roughly 1,400 vendors expected at the show would have been affected by the ban, announced in the aftermath of the shootings of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown.
But the ban was promptly derided by gun enthusiasts, who flooded social media sites with threats of a boycott. Soon, many of the show's sponsors, such as mega-retailer Cabela's, as well as exhibitors and celebrities slated to appear at the show - including Eagles defensive end Trent Cole, a hunter and outdoor TV show host - followed suit.
The NRA initially called on its members to go the show and voice their objections to the ban. Two days ago, citing Reed's refusal to reconsider its decision, the gun lobby announced it was pulling out of the show.
The state's largest coalition of sportsmen's groups protested as well, calling the stance taken by Reed "an attack on the Second Amendment."
The show's promoters "chose to stand their ground and refused to negotiate," the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmens Clubs said late Thursday in a statement. "Sportsmen and women chose to stand their ground as well."
A boycott had been organized by Tom McConnell, a website developer from Cresson, in Western Pennsylvania. McConnell said he was shocked when he heard an outdoors show would impose such a ban. "If they're going to take them from a sporting goods show," he said Thursday, "what's next?"
McConnell, who described the show as part of his family's and Pennsylvania's heritage, said his Facebook site - mynortheastoutdoors.com - quickly spiked as word of the boycott spread. He said 19,000 people now like the site.
The Harrisburg outdoors show, since its inception more than a half-century ago, has sealed its place as a winter tradition for outdoor-sports lovers, attracting an estimated 250,000 people annually in recent years. They come to shop for hunting and fishing equipment, book treks with outfitters from around the globe, take firearms classes, and watch taxidermy and wood carving demonstrations.
Last year the show - billed as the largest of its kind in North America - generated an estimated $80 million for the region's businesses, including hotels and restaurants that relied on the show's turnout during a slow month.
David Black, president of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that the absence of the show, held in the mammoth Farm Show complex, would hurt first-quarter profits for many small businesses in the area, but that they will recover.
"It's a blip on the economic radar," Black said. "Our hope at the chamber is that [the show] will return - if not this year, next year."
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