HARRISBURG – For more than 50 years, attending the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex has become as important to sportsmen as the opening day of trout season or – depending upon one's preference the opening day of the archery or firearms deer season.

Today, the "Harrisburg show," as it most commonly referred to by sportsmen, has grown into the largest of its kind in North American. Still, the promoters recognized several years ago that bigger is not always better unless the show has substance.

As a result, major improvements were made that were implemented for last year's show. And, according to show manager Chris O'Hara, that will continue this year for the nine-day show that opens Saturday, Feb. 6 and closes Sunday, Feb. 14.

"Building on last year's success, we are again bringing in some of the biggest names in hunting and fishing to present seminars and meet our guests," O'Hara said at a recent media conference. "Of course, we continue to bring in more manufacturers, retailers and outfitters from around the world than any other show in the world.

"Our show attracts outdoors sports enthusiasts from across the country to view the latest and best hunting and fishing products, plan and book hunting and fishing trips, shop for the latest gear, boats, ATVs and RVs, and enjoy a wide range of contests and family entertainment. This year's show includes more than 1,100 hunting- and fishing-related vendors, including a wide range of hunting-related, archery, outdoor-apparel, fishing, and game-call vendors, and more than 500 outfitters from around the world.

"Thompson/Center Arms, one of the world's most respected designers, manufacturers and marketers of premium hunting firearms, is bringing its full line of products and factory representatives to the show. Thompson/Center Arms, which is now part of the Smith and Wesson Company, is widely recognized by hunters as a manufacturer and distributor of innovative firearms that meet the highest precision, performance, craftsmanship, and reliability standards."

More than a "retail" show, what sets the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show apart is the number of contests, seminars and special events. All the seminars are included in the price of admission, but registration fees are required for some of the contests.

Some of the nationally known speakers and special guests at this year's show are:

Michael Waddell who since joining Team Realtree in 1994 has gone from cameraman to producer to host of "Realtree Road Trips" and is host of the very popular "Bone Collector's."

Lee and Tiffany Lakosky of "Gettin' Close with Lee & Tiffany" and now star in the reality based outdoors program "The Crush with Lee & Tiffany."

Stan Potts, who has hunted whitetails for 40 years, harvesting numerous whitetail bucks with a bow, three of which scored more than 200 inches. His hunting successes have been featured in "North American Whitetail," and he has appeared in several hunting videos and television shows, including "Realtree Outdoors" and "Hunter's Specialties Prime Time."

Chuck Adams, who is the world's best known and most widely published bowhunter, authoring 4,550 magazine articles and 10 books. He appears 25-30 times each year on ESPN, WGN and TNN television networks and stars on ESPN's "Whitetail Country" and "Advantage Adventures" shows. He is the first archer to accomplish the "Super Slam" by taking of all 27 species of North American big game and has 111 Pope & Young record-book trophies and is No. 1 with 181 Safari Club International records.

Bobby Hart specializes in long-range Shooting and hunting, building custom rifles in his workshop in Nescopeck. He also offers an "accuracy package" that has been proven to greatly increase the reliability of many factory rifles.

Dan Whitmus, who grew up hunting and fishing in Washington State, where his knowledge of the outdoors landed him a manager's role at a 20,000 acre duck and goose lease. In 1999, he moved to Idaho to continue his career in the hunting industry, concentrating on elk hunting and has won two world elk calling titles and nine state and regional championships.

Bob Clouser is the creator of the famed "Clouser Minnow" fly pattern, known world-wide and has caught more varieties of fish than any other fly. He continues to guide, teach and share his enjoyment with others, presenting seminars on fly fishing for trout and bass.

Other seminars will include a variety of topics, from butchering deer to cooking game to outdoors photography. Also scheduled is a variety of entertainment programs featuring wildlife, including the "Raptors Up Close" program.

Show hours for this year's Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show are: Saturday, Feb. 6, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday-Saturday, Feb. 8-13, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, access the show Web site at www.easternsportshow.com.