Most markets, especially the larger ones, still host at least one big boat show annually and maybe a hunting show. Houston is home to one of the longest-running consumer fishing shows in the nation, a well established camping/RV show and almost weekly gun shows. San Antonio, Austin and Dallas all have their own versions of successful outdoor shows as well.
At the height of outdoor-consumer frenzy over all things new, there were attempts at shows dedicated specifically to shallow-water fishing, fly fishing and bow hunting. Houston even saw one swing at a golf expo—which was a huge flop, ironically, as the metropolitan area at that time was home to more than 130 courses. In hindsight, none of those stand-alone shows fared well, but instead were absorbed as significant parts of bigger shows.
That change benefited both the producers of those expositions and their vendors.
As an exhibitor or consumer, you want to see a crowd. The more people in the hall, the better the guides’ or vendors’ chances of making sales—and the more the consumer feels like he or she is in the right place to snap up the hottest gear. It’s a win-win.
Of some 150 shows I have attended with professional purpose, it’s difficult to say if one was better than any other. Some shows had better years than others, but if you paced any of their aisles patiently with both eyes open, you couldn’t help but find at least a half-dozen things that either educated, surprised or left you bewildered.
Outdoor writers play an unspoken game at consumer shows: find the goofiest gadget on the floor, then tell your peers. It’s there at every show, too, sadly—a product that’s about two weeks from becoming its inventor’s shattered dream. Look for them yourself. It’s good sport, so long as you spare the product’s creator from your opinion.
If you can devote an honest afternoon to any of these shows, you’re guaranteed to uncover something that makes you a better outdoorsman. Oh, the fabulous grown-man outdoors toys that definitely belong in your house or garage!
Check out our list of 2015 Texas Outdoor Shows to pencil in on your calendar here!