While the news wasn’t entirely unexpected, this week’s early cancellation of the 2020 International Fly Tackle Dealer show in Denver later this year still sent shock waves through an industry struggling to deal with the unprecedented shutdown and economic woes being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously scheduled to take place in Denver this fall from Oct. 7-9, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association announced the official postponement of the 2020 show on Wednesday, April 7, 2020 in the form of a letter sent to industry members by AFFTA president and CEO Ben Bulis.
After a record setting run in 2019 that saw more than 2,000+ industry professionals gather in Denver for the largest IFTD show in history, Bulis’ letter on Wednesday struck a somber note.
“Yesterday the AFFTA Board of Directors voted unanimously to postpone this year’s IFTD show,” said Bulis in his letter to the “industry family.”
“Comprised of guides, outfitters, manufacturers and retailers, the Board reflects a cross-section of the industry and are all experiencing a tremendous financial loss, just like all of you. In light of the completely unpredictable path of the COVID-19 virus and length of our industry’s—and nation’s—social and economic recovery, we have elected to take decisive action, protect our people and their businesses and continue to find ways to weather these times together.
“Make no mistake, this was an exceedingly difficult decision for the AFFTA Board. We are in completely uncharted waters, but we promise to be as diligent and responsive as possible in leading our industry through these tough times.”
According to Bulis’ letter, several factors played into the early cancellation of the 2020 IFTD show, including the safety of industry members, the unknown length of time that preventative measures will be in place, and the uncertain financial picture for the industry both now and in the future.
Bulis also noted that attendee expenditures for travel to the 2020 show also factored into the AFFTA’s early decision.
“With the economic loss you’re facing, we don’t want members to incur the cost of travel and lodging and time away from businesses to attend IFTD,” his letter noted.
The letter also indicated that the AFFTA is working on exhibitor deposits (already in hand for the 2020 show) as well as working with vendors, hotels, and the convention center in Denver. Other solutions being sought include developing resources useful for fly fishing businesses during the coronavirus outbreak, ways to keep communication lines open and current, and ideas to somehow bring the industry together by way of “alternative channels.”
As the AFFTA works on such issues and solutions, Bulis promised the fly fishing industry that it would hear from the organization in the coming days. He also noted that the organization has put together a website resource page with up-to-date information concerning federal, state, and local relief efforts for fly fishing guides and businesses.
“Things are changing on a daily basis,” noted Bulis, who asked for members of the fly fishing industry to stay safe, stay positive, and to take care of themselves and their families during this pandemic.
“We will share what we learn as soon as we have new information,” he added. “If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me directly. We ask for your patience as we work through this process. We understand that this is a difficult time and will do everything we can to take care of each and every one of you.”
In closing, Bulis added a note that nearly every member of the fly fishing industry can identify with during these uncertain times.
“I wish you well and hope to see each of you very soon on the river or enjoying a dinner together,” he said.
Few if any fly anglers will disagree with those sentiments as the world looks to defeat the coronavirus crisis, to get healthy, to get back to work, and when possible, to get back to some semblance of normal life.
Preferably with the sounds of rushing water and lapping waves in the background as the gentle whoosh of a fly line whispers overhead.