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The University of Maine notified organizers of the 82nd annual Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show that the show, which was scheduled for Friday through Sunday, will not be staged this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The virus is known as COVID-19.
Mark Byers, the show director for the Penobscot County Conservation Association, which puts on the show, said the UMaine administration contacted his club as they were beginning work marking the New Balance Field House floor to determine where vendors would set up.
UMaine officials told Byers that they’d try to set up another weekend for the show, but Byers did not know if the club could hold the event later in the year.
“They offered us another [undetermined] date, but with the other shows and everything going on, I’m not sure we’ll be able to do it this year,” Byers said.
Although organizers were setting up for the show and had said on Wednesday night that it was going to be held, Byers said the cancellation really didn’t come as a big surprise.
“We had an idea just because of what had started happening with universities [shutting down] across the country,” he said. “We kind of half-expected that something might come up.”
Byers said that after receiving word of the cancellation, he stopped preparing the floor for booths and began calling vendors to tell them the news. Historically the show has hosted vendors from Maine and across the northeast, including fishing charter operations from as far away as Lake Ontario.
The show serves as the PCCA’s major fundraiser for college scholarships and summer conservation camp scholarships, but Byers is hopeful that the cancellation won’t affect those ongoing programs.
“On average, we make $40,000 to $50,000 on the show,” Byers said. “Our scholarships shouldn’t be hurt much because we have a trust fund that the scholarships come out of. It’s the smaller events that we do for free — kid’s ice fishing day and youth day and hunter safety stuff — all of that gets paid out of this show.”
Those smaller events will still go on, Byers said, but staging them will get a little more difficult without the show income to fund them.
“We’ll continue on. We’ve been doing it for 82 years. I think in World War II we missed a couple years, too,” Byers said.
In other outdoor show news, the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club’s Sportsman’s Show, scheduled for March 21 and 22, has been cancelled according to the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Also, a representative of the Mollyockett Chapter of Trout Unlimited posted on social media Thursday that the Western Maine Fly Fishing Expo, which was scheduled for March 21, has also been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.
The State of Maine Sportsman’s Show in Augusta, which was to be held March 27-29, was also cancelled after a Thursday afternoon meeting between leaders of the show’s two organizers, The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and The Maine Sportsman magazine.