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Great American Outdoor Show worth $75M annually to local economy

Pennsylvania Farm Show, which returns in January, still biggest tourism event for Harrisburg

In this file photo from 2016's Great American Outdoor Show, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center bustles with people. - (Photo / File)

The Great American Outdoor Show, billed as the world’s largest outdoor event, is proving to be big business for the Harrisburg area.

The National Rifle Association’s signature outdoor show, which will return to Harrisburg for a fourth year in early February, is worth about $75 million to the local economy each year, tourism officials estimate.

The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau said the five-year deal with the NRA, which was extended last year through 2018, is expected to generate more than $370 million for the region’s economy.

The bureau bases its economic impact number on a regional lodging report for the 10-day period of the show. During the last outdoor show, the bureau reported 55,842 room-nights countywide, which was up from 54,490 in 2015 and 46,873 in 2014. 

The bureau also comes up with an economic impact number using an event impact calculator developed for the travel and tourism industry by Destination Marketing Association International and Tourism Economics. 

The show also supports about 8,000 jobs. 

The NRA created the show in 2014 after the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show was canceled in 2013 by Reed Exhibitions, which had produced the show in Harrisburg for more than 30 years.

The NRA-produced event attracts about 1,200 vendors. The NRA does not release attendance figures, but it was estimated that 178,500 people attended the 2016 event. 

For the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, site of the outdoor show, it’s the second-biggest event of the year. The annual Pennsylvania Farm Show, which kicks off Jan. 7, is worth about $95 million per year to the local economy.

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