FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- Thousands gathered at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for the All American Outdoor Expo on Saturday.
The expo marks a return to normalcy for many Fort Wayne residents who haven't been to an event like this since the start of the pandemic.
Kerianne Garwick loves the outdoors.
Fishing, camping, hunting - you name it.
That’s why when she found out about the All American Outdoor Expo, she grabbed a friend, got in her car, and drove over to the War Memorial Coliseum.
“A change of pace, you know, being stuck inside. Just being out and seeing people,” Garwick said.
Show Manager David Marquart says this is a taste of what life was like before last March.
“There’s finally something to do and somewhere to go to. Yeah you gotta wear a stinking mask and behave yourself and follow the rules but you actually get to feel normal,” Marquart said.
Or as close to normal as COVID-19 safety precautions allow.
ACWMC General Manager Randy Brown says this is the first large-scale expo the Coliseum has had since the start of the pandemic.
“We’re on the downside of the pandemic. We’re not out of the woods but people are wearing masks, social distancing and we’re getting the vaccine too,” Brown said.
He says they can’t let their guard down.
“How we clean, how we’re distancing people, the amount of fresh air that we’re bringing into the hall. It’s really a little bit of everything that makes this doable."
As the hospitality business struggles through the pandemic, large-scale events like these boost the local economy.
“When the hotel community, the restaurant community, when shopping, when all those things are doing well as a community, then we’re doing well," Brown said.
The Coliseum hopes to continue to put on large-scale events like the All American Outdoor Expo, but will monitor local and state health regulations and adjust accordingly.