As white-tailed deer hunting seasons begin to wind down – and with most big game bowhunting seasons already in the books – the race towards opening day 2016 has already begun.
That terms seems fitting for this piece since four days after the dawn of the New Year, more than 10,000 people will descend upon Louisville, Kentucky – the Midwestern town that is home to the 1 ¼-mile dirt race track of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby – for the 2016 Archery Trade Association (ATA) Show.
Also home to actress Jennifer Lawrence – the archery shooting Katniss Everdeen character of The Hunger Games movie franchise – the January 5-7 ATA Show will be the year’s biggest gathering of the archery and bowhunting industry.
Not to mention the biggest gathering of TV celebrities and hunting personalities that fill dozens of bowhunting related shows on Sportsman Channel and Outdoor Channel each week.
ATA president and CEO Jay McAninch reports the vibrant city on the banks of the Ohio River should be more than suited to handle the sizable crowd attending.
“The Kentucky Exposition Center offers abundant floor space and, for us, that’s invaluable,” said McAninch in a news release about the event.
“Our show is growing and this show floor will allow for that growth. It’s also important for this event to bring features — our featured product area, shooting lanes, business hubs, lounges and diverse food offerings — onto the main floor to make it easier for retailers to cover the show.”
According to the ATA information, this year’s show will draw more than 600 exhibitors, more than 3,000 buyers and more than 300 media representatives.
Last held in Louisville back in 2013, those who come to the 2016 version of the show will find more than 229,000 square feet of booth space occupied, some 76 shooting lanes to sample the latest bows and arrows, and an expansion into two additional convention areas for a total footprint of more than 500,000 square feet.
Known as the birthplace of bourbon and home to the Louisville Slugger baseball bat company, McAninch expects those in attendance at this year’s ATA Show to thoroughly enjoy themselves.
In addition to the bows already announced in recent weeks by companies like Mathews and Hoyt, other new bow launches from the likes of Bowtech and others will take place in Louisville. And plenty of new arrows, broadheads, camouflage and high-tech clothing, ground blinds, treestands and archery accessories also will be unveiled to the public in Louisville.
While the bowhunting industry’s version of “Christmas in January” will dominate the show floors during the ATA Show’s three-day run, numerous business related dinners, product announcement parties and plenty of industry good times will take place in Louisville’s bustling downtown district every evening.
“Every city has buildings, hotels, and restaurants, and all can roll out the red carpet,” said McAninch. “Few cities have the warm, inviting nature of a town like Louisville.”
In addition to the various showings of new gear and gadgets, several other key story lines will unfold as the 2016 ATA Show opens.
One of those will be the reappearance of bow-making giant, Mathews and its related family of companies.
The Sparta, Wisconsin-based, bow-maker – which has held its own dealers’ show in recent years – will be in attendance at the ATA Show for the first time since 2005.
“We’re looking forward to connecting with retailers, media partners and other manufacturers at the show,” said Steve McPherson, president of McPherson Companies (which includes Mathews, Mission Archery, MXB Crossbows, Genesis Archery and Zebra Bowstrings among others).
“Our business has dramatically expanded the last ten years and we are excited to showcase all our new product lines side-by-side for the entire industry to experience first-hand.”
“We’re pleased to have Mathews back on the floor where they can serve member retailers, the most important customers of the show,” said McAninch.
If retailers are the lifeblood of the show, then the subject matter of the show – archery and bowhunting – is the lifeblood of the industry.
And with that in mind, there may be few better places to hold the show than in Louisville since Kentucky is home to one of the best high school archery programs in the country.
In fact, according to the ATA, Kentucky became the first state in the nation in 2012 to sanction archery as a varsity high school sport. That took place when the Kentucky Athletic High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) sanctioned archery.
Because of that grass roots level support for archery, the convention center that will host the 2016 ATA Show also has been host to a number of other archery events. Those have included the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Archery State Championship, the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) Indoor National Championships and the National Archery in the Schools Program’s (NASP) National Convention.
All of which shows that week in and week out, archery – and bowhunting, as the Bluegrass State of Kentucky happens to be one of the best spots in North America to bowhunt white-tailed deer – is a big, big, big deal in the state of the Kentucky.
So much so that for a few days in early January, the city of Louisville will become the center of the archery and bowhunting world.
All as the image of a bow-shooting Katniss Everdeen looms large over the city.
Editor’s Note: As the 2016 ATA Show unfolds in Louisville early next month, be sure to visit www.thesportsmanchannel.com every day for the latest in ATA Show news, celebrity sightings and photos, and daily wrap-up videos that bring the show from the American Midwest right to your computer screen.