REDMOND — Though all the numbers aren’t in yet, turnout for the Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show held last weekend at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds was better than expected, according to organizers.

It was one of the first large events to be held in the Pacific Northwest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the show was one of the earliest casualties of COVID-19. Just a couple of hours before opening, Gov. Kate Brown ordered a shutdown of large events.

This year, there was some pent-up desire to get out and enjoy the outdoors. The nice weather helped as well.

“It was a little slow on Thursday, the start of the show, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday all saw good crowds,” said Trey Carskadon for O’Loughlin Trade Shows.

The promoter said about 200 booths were setup at the fairgrounds, plus and RV and boat display outside the pavilion.

“We have more large-area booths this year. With the social distancing, that worked out well,” Carskadon said.

Further, there were no incidences with people needing to wear masks or remain socially distant while visiting the displays, he said.

“What really struck us was that sales were off the hook,” he said, with many of the booths reporting strong sales, including the gun show and arts and crafts booths.

This year, crowd-control was top of the mind for the event, that usually draws more than 15,000 people to the Deschutes County Fairgrounds.

“We can hold the event as a retail show, because we can control the crowd,” he said. “It’s our opportunity to demonstrate to folks how we can hold this show safely. We controlled the amount of folks in the building, so there is no crowding. That was the key.”

What that means is that ticketholders were given a time slot to attend — about a 2 ½- to 3-hour slot — to see everything. Then they left and another wave of visitors came in.

“Anecdotally, I spoke with a family and had to let them know that we did not have the trout-fishing pond this year. They didn’t mind, they just wante dto get out a do something after being stuck at home,” Carskadon said.

A big attraction was the short, tethered hot-air balloon rides, he said. And, on Sunday there was an outdoors cooking competition for well-known chefs.

This was the 22nd Annual Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show staged by O’Loughlin Trade shows. Next week is the big daddy, the show in Portland, reportedly the largest outdoor show in the Northwest.

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