KEVIN TATE: Outdoor industry meets where reality, fantasy divide

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

The lights glow so brightly, they blot out the moon and the stars. They glow like a multicolored fire on the floor of the continent’s great Western desert. They glow with light from an eye that can see but never understand. But sometimes, maybe, just seeing is enough.
The Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show is the annual gathering of those who make their living through the business of innovating, marketing and selling the equipment enthusiasts use in their individual pursuits of happiness.
Beginning with the core of the world’s firearm manufacturers and radiating outward through countless suppliers of equipment related to the firearms’ use, the SHOT Show, as it’s known, held its 35th annual meeting last week.
The event’s first edition, set in St. Louis in 1979, drew 5,600 attendees. Last week’s event in Las Vegas attracted more than 60,000. Over the years, especially early on, the event’s locale varied widely. but currently it’s through the fourth year of a five-year Las Vegas engagement. In a city that reinvents itself more often than the nation elects a president, a five-year run is a bonding achievement indeed. Only Elvis played there longer.
The first time I set foot in Las Vegas, I thought it was the most artificial place I’d ever seen. A dozen trips later, I’d say it may be the most real. I don’t know which is worse. Nothing happens there that people aren’t paying to see and do. Everything in sight is offered in answer to a funded desire. It’s like Washington, D.C. without the elections.
What Las Vegas does for the SHOT Show, other than facilitate its logistics, a job it does do very well, is create a tremendous contrast between the natural world the show’s vendors access and the paved and lighted world that begins just outside its doors. For anyone who ever needed help choosing, the choice was never made more clear.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.