Show time, slow time: For some of us, time to reconsider going to outdoors shows for now; plus Stray Cast

Considering the quick spread of the latest COVID variant, I am putting the brakes on attending outdoors shows for now; plus Stray Cast.

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The Chicago Boat Show, shown in January 2020, should return for the first time in three years in January. Credit: Dale Bowman

The Chicago Boat Show, shown in January 2020, was the first Chicago-area show to announce this fall that it was canceled for 2022.

Dale Bowman

The last outdoors show I attended locally was the Tinley Park Fishing Show on Feb. 8, 2020.

It’s going to remain the last outdoors show I attend for the foreseeable future. Just a few weeks ago, I had my winter planned for shows on a nearly weekly basis. That changed rapidly with the omicron variant.

I’m not stupid. I listen to people who know more than me — outdoors experts on the natural world, fishing or hunting. I do the same in listening to scientists and doctors on the pandemic.

I live with two people at high risk for COVID. Frankly, I’m not too far from aging into an at-risk group.

I’m not screwing around with this latest surge.

The cavalier attitude among fringes of the outdoors world particularly irks me. We’re the ones who should know better. If for no other reason than in the local realm of tackle and bait, the number of COVID cases and deaths among staff and owners is at a greater rate than in the general population.

I suspect it’s at least partially because too many in the outdoors are anti-mask and anti-vaccine. We really should be doing better at following the rudimentary guidelines of dealing with the pandemic: Most important, get vaccinated, but also practice social-distancing and wear masks in indoor settings with groups.

By now, all of us should be doing that as a matter of routine.

That more than a quarter of the population remains unvaccinated in our country is beyond belief for me.

So I’m not surprised that the Tinley Park show notified vendors Friday that it was canceled for this winter. It joins the Chicago Boat Show and the All-Canada Show in canceling for this winter. More will come.

The shows are a treasure for me. I bump into people and talk face to face, and they tell me things they would never put in writing or say publicly. That’s invaluable.

But keeping myself and family members alive is even more valuable.

What also irks me is that the outdoors should be the saving factor in the pandemic.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County has been a model for handling the pandemic in a highly populated area: Keep the outdoor spaces open and accessible; limit or shut down, as needed, such things as nature centers, visitor centers and shelters.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, under orders from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, had an initial shutdown of outdoor spaces, but since May 2020, they have largely reopened. By now, we know, if needed, shut down visitor centers, nature centers and/or shelters, but keep the outdoor spaces open.

As to the closure of the Chicago lakefront, I can overlook the initial few months when we were trying to grasp the pandemic. But to have that closure of the most important outdoor space in the city for month after month was inexcusable.

God bless the in-the-field Chicago police officers who, after a few months, enforced the closure under their own interpretation (i.e., enforcing it when faced with jackass behavior or those mouthing off).

We can live with indoor shows canceling, but keeping outdoor spaces open is key to living with the pandemic.


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