CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Visitors to this year's West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show will immediately notice something different about the setup.
The National Rifle Association, which ordinarily exhibits inside the show, will be set up outside in the Charleston Civic Center lobby. Glen Jarrell, a spokesman for the show's organizers, said NRA officials plan to offer show-goers a deal:
"Anyone who signs up to be an NRA member, or renews a membership, will be given a free pass into the show," Jarrell explained.
Outside of that anomaly, the program for the Jan. 18-20 event - billed as a midwinter "gathering of the clan" for hunting and fishing enthusiasts - is very similar to those of the previous 26 years' worth of shows.
The main attraction, as usual, will be the huge assortment of exhibitors inside the arena. Equipment vendors will show off their newest outdoor gear. Hunting and fishing clubs will try to entice people to join. Government agencies will promote their services. Outfitters will offer hunting and fishing trips to far-flung and exotic locales.
"We have 30 new vendors and outfitters," Jarrell said. "So there will be some new people to meet, new apparel to see, new equipment to try, and new trips to book."
Jarrell said exhibit space has been sold out since the end of September.
"But that's normal for this show," he added. "We usually have a waiting list of exhibitors wanting to get in.
A booth at the show gives an exhibitor access to the 15,000 outdoors enthusiasts who flock to the event each year.
"It's remarkable how steady our attendance has been," Jarrell said. "About the only thing that ever causes a dip in attendance is a big ice storm. Apart from that, the folks always come.
"Those folks spend money, too. They buy clothing and equipment, and they book lots of hunting and fishing trips. It's amazing when you think about it, but we have four outfitters from South Africa at the show this year. They're coming because they know there are people here in Charleston who will book hunting trips with them."
The show's organizers, members of the West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association, believe they've put together a mix of elements that brings in people year after year.
One of the main ones is the West Virginia Whitetail Hall of Fame, an exhibit that features dozens of buck trophies from throughout the Mountain State. The lineup changes from year to year, and new trophies get added every year.