Show season goes (sorta) for Chicago outdoors: Some shows on, but season is fragmented and changing

There will be a sort-of show season around Chicago outdoors, but changes come, and the focus shifts toward spring or 2022.

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The Tinley Park Fishing Show, with its unique and packed gym section last February, is another one of the Chicago-area outdoor shows that is canceled for the winter of 2021 but with plans to return in 2022. Credit: Dale Bowman

The Tinley Park Fishing Show, with its unique and packed gym section last February, is another one of the Chicago-area outdoor shows that is canceled for the winter of 2021 with plans to return in 2022.

Dale Bowman

The pandemic will break the Chicago tradition of attending outdoor shows in winter. In the Chicago Boat Show, that tradition goes back 90 years.

I think the break, at least for the months of January and February, is the only sane response. Frankly, it will probably take months longer.

When I checked with a show salesman with decades of experience on status of various shows, he messaged, “Any show organizer that is still planning a show is clearly consumed by greed.”

Or in denial of the deadliness of the pandemic in the United States.

On the good side, creative thinkers are reconsidering their options for attending or doing shows. After the pandemic, there will be changes. I even think the concept of show going with thousands packing enclosed buildings may be rethought.

Maybe.

At the very least, changes are coming.

On many levels.

On Wednesday, Lost Paddle Media announced it acquired four shows from Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association. That included the Chicagoland Fishing Travel & Outdoor Expo. But, the Schaumburg Show, as it is known, will have continuity when it returns in 2022. Tod Alberto, who managed the show since its start at the Schaumburg Convention Center, will be back to lead the show and other shows in the acquisition.

The Schaumburg Show, with a crowded aisle last January, is one of the major outdoor shows in the Chicago area that will not be going in the winter of 2021, but plans to return in 2022 with new ownership. Credit: Dale Bowman

The Schaumburg Show, with a crowded aisle last January, is one of the major outdoor shows in the Chicago area that will not be going in the winter of 2021, but plans to return in 2022 with new ownership.

Dale Bowman

The Northern Illinois Boat Show is not canceled, but show promoters await news in late January or early February. The show is scheduled for the first weekend of March at the Lake County Fairgrounds & Events Center. With the uncertainty, they plan such options as Munson Marine and Fox Lake Harbor Marina hosting events, including heated tents on Jan. 9 at Munson.

Shows scheduled for later in the winter or spring have a better chance of actually going and drawing audiences. Though I’ll be honest, I will be very hesitant.

With planners for the North American Decoy Collectors Association having their annual show in late April, they are hoping to finally test the new location at the Westin Chicago Lombard.

Planning for the Fish & Hook Sports Show was forward thinking enough to have a May 8 date at the VFW Post 5788 in Lockport.

My anticipation for the new Illinois Deer Classic will have to wait another year, as it will not go in 2021 because of “state restrictions.”

The National Wild Turkey Federation, which decided early to not hold their annual show, is going with this aim: “Let’s make this one-time, virtual Convention and Sport Show one for the books that we can look back on.”

Canoecopia, the paddling world’s gathering in Madison, Wis., is going with a virtual gathering on the scheduled days, March 12-14.

Pheasants Forever announced on Dec. 2 its decision to cancel the 2021 Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic scheduled for Feb. 21-23 in Sioux Falls, S.D. They anticipate doing a virtual experience.

I had an interesting chat with Jason Baldwin, who has run the Henry Decoy Show for a decade. The niche show allows Baldwin to be more nimble. He hopes the 53rd show could go later or at another venue. He is taking the restrictions as a way to rethink the show and may expand its reach when it comes back.

I am guessing there will be a lot of rethinking before some sense of normalcy returns by 2022. I hope.

Click here for the compiled show list, which will be updated as needed.

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