The question gnaws at me: ``Is the demise of America's Outdoor Show the final gasp of the big outdoor shows for Chicago?
Jim Sugarman, owner of America's Outdoor Show, announced yesterday, "I regret to inform you that I will not be producing a 2012 show."
He sent me a heads up early in the day and I have spent the last day trying to put it in perspective.
I understand the business side. Maybe big outdoor shows are just dead, economically.
That's part of it. But in other great outdoors areas such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, big outdoor shows continue to thrive.
The answer may be that traditional big outdoor shows are dead in the Chicago market, for a complex set of reasons, including parking and labor costs, a splintered and over-filled show schedule and competition from big-box outdoors stores.
Before I go on, let me define big outdoor show. I don't just mean numbers of people coming through. We have good outdoor shows with good numbers of attendees, the Tinley Park show this weekend is probably the best example of that.
The Chicago Muskie Show is a tremendous show, best in the area, but it is niche show for a specific audience.
What I mean by big is a sprawling show worthy of Chicago.
I mean big thinking, big-name speakers, big attempts at innovation and a big spread of activities and exhibitors.
America's Outdoor Show had that this year.
Damm, it was fun.
It's been many years since I wanted to go to an outdoor show for more than one day. I did this year. And it felt good.
You could walk around, see and pose with Al Lindner, Kevin VanDam or Lee and Tiffany Lakosky. We haven't had a show like that in years.
There was an outrageously big America's Lake. I don't think it was completely successful, but it was an audacious attempt and a lot of fun.
It was an event to attend on a weekend day, feel the crush of the crowd, catch the big names. Just do different stuff.
It was big.
It was fun.
I think Chicago outdoors will be diminished if no show with thinking as big fills the empty spot.
I want more than the chance to buy a rod on sale or crappie jigs by the bulk.
I want a buzz, a feel that outdoors matters as an experience far beyond a red reduced sale tag.
Here's Sugarman's announcement:
My heartfelt thanks to all board of advisors, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, attendees and contractors of America's Outdoor Show.
I regret to inform you that I will not be producing a 2012 show.
While I had an unforgettable time revitalizing the largest and longest running sportshow in Chicagoland... it's not show friends... it's show business.
While my financial return over the last two years has been substandard, the positive memories have exceeded expectations by far!
Two final requests:
Support the All Canada, the Chicago Boat Show, and the Chicago Muskie Show with your patronage; and
Be wary of any individuals/companies that claim to have been associated with America's Outdoor Show who solicit your business in any way.
I have not, nor will not distribute your information to any third party.
Thank you for your business and for the opportunity to have worked with you.
My wife, daughter and I wish you and your families good health and continued success in all your endeavors!
Thanks for the Memories,
Jim Sugarman, sole owner
America's Outdoor Show