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John Petrolino & Charlie Cook, Host of Riding Shotgun with Charlie, Visit the Great American Outdoor Show

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Charlie Cook, host of Riding Shotgun with Charlie, and John Petrolino, The Pen Patriot
Charlie Cook, host of Riding Shotgun with Charlie, and John Petrolino, The Pen Patriot at the Great American Outdoor Show

The Great American Outdoor Show (GAOS) has been going on for some time. This is my second year attending it. Fellow News2A writer John Petrolino and I went as media both years. This year started off as it usually does. We submitted our info and bios and waited. Just a few days before the event, we got the acceptance emails. Then there was an email about the Presidential forum. I wasn’t sure if there was extra registration to get in.

After having emailed GAOS Press to see if I could get in, I found out the day before the forum that I was accepted. Petrolino hadn’t heard a thing. I replied asking for him. They told me he was approved too. Later that day we got the information about the procedure to set things up. I wasn’t 100% sure what all of this meant but I brought my collection of GoPros that I use to film Riding Shotgun With Charlie.

My day started early. I didn’t get to sleep until about 11 pm. I woke up at 3:30am, a half hour before the alarm was set. I was on the road by 4:35am. I was on the road for over 5 hours making the trip from central Massachusetts to Harrisburg, PA. I arrived before Petrolino did.

Behind my car, putting on my RSWC Oxford and digging up last year’s press badge, someone parked near me asked if I was media. We talked and I found out he was with a nationally syndicated TV show that is hosted by a rock star and former NRA Board of Directors member.

We went to a side door. I tried sneaking him in with my badge but security wasn’t having it. I ended up going through the general pop entrance. Knowing full well that this was not my entrance I asked the doorman and he confirmed I needed to be on the other side.

After finally making it to the media area and getting my media and forum badge, I waited for my partner in crime. As much as I tried smooth talking, they wouldn’t give me his badge. I had just enough time to get a power bar and a bottled water.

We raced to the large hall where the event was going to be. We had to set up between 11am and noon. We ran into one of the NRA folks whose job it was to take the media people and shuffle them into the proper area to set up. He was a nice guy and took his duties in stride. He made sure we were in the correct space.

We wanted to make sure we were going to be ok getting back into the media area and didn’t really want to leave. I’ve got trust issues (thanks to previous relationships) and I figured someone would move my GoPro. I was right behind the main camera and the sound board.

We left. Then got lost getting out. We retraced our steps and got back to somewhere we knew we had been just a few minutes before. We ran into the NRA representative who asked us why we were still here. We made our way outside the arena and tried confirming if there was a special entrance for the media. No, we did not want to end up in the line that formed at 12:30 to get into the hall when the doors opened at 3pm and then started at 5pm.

There were all sorts of big media there. Some of the national news stations were there as well as several local tv stations. Everyone has these big expensive cameras. I pulled out my amazing tripod and GoPro 4. It did look a little out of place.

Charlie Cooks GoPro camera co-mingling with real news cameras
Charlie Cook's GoPro camera co-mingling with real news cameras

The middle part of the afternoon had us walking around the floor. Trying to find some food. And running into friends, new and old. We also caught a seminar from the USCCA with Klint Marco.

By 3pm we decided to head back to the large hall where President Trump was going to be speaking. We ran into another media friend and piggybacked with her. Right away we saw the NRA shuffler. He took about nine media folks to the “mags”, as the Secret Service calls them. The magnetometers for us civilians.

Magnetomers at GAOS
Magentometers at the Great American Outdoor Show

Once inside the hall, we had nothing to do but hang out for the next hour and a half. We saw more friends but had free rein to go where the cameras were set up. To my surprise, my GoPro hasn’t been moved, knocked down, or stolen.

That's a GoPro camera that didn't get stolen.
That's a GoPro camera that didn't get stolen.

The arena had the feeling of a good rock and roll concert. The sound board was playing some great music to get everyone riled up. About 25 minutes before it started, it was announced that “the t-shirt guy” was coming out. A man walked around with a shirt launcher jettisoning t-shirts into the rafters and falling for people to catch. It was just a wild scene, nothing like a gun event. Nothing like a political event. And certainly not like the appearances Biden made at someone’s backyard in 2020.

The evening kicked off with War Hippies, a guitar and fiddle dip where both musicians are military veterans. They did some originals and a cover of Simple Man by Charlie Daniels. The NRA had the new Executive Vice President come out and speak. Then NRA President Charles Cotton. Billy McLaughlin, NRA digital director, really took the stage strong. He got everyone riled up. His speech included some videos of two NRA members and instructors.

One video was of Raul Mendez who saved his life and his family’s lives from a murderer. Mendez was shot in the head with a bullet going through his head with the bullet going through left eye. As he lay there, bleeding, he pulled out his carry pistol that he was carrying inside his home and put four holes in the chest of the man who was going to kill all of his family members. One year after this event, Mendez became an NRA certified instructor.

The other video was of Robin Evans from Chicks With Triggers. Evans is a black woman and an NRA instructor. She trains women who are survivors domestic violence and violent crimes. She’s trained over 4,500 so far.

When President Trump finally entered the arena, there were some seats that were not yet filled, only because everyone was standing up, clapping and cheering. He spent a moment acknowledging some local politicians. He thanked all the freedom-loving people who attended.

US President Donal Trump speaking at the Great American Outdoor Show
US President Donal Trump speaking at the Great American Outdoor Show

His speech was a little bit of everything we’ve come to expect from President Trump. Some politics. Some slams on Biden and the Democrats. Some pro-gun comments. Yes, you do have to recall he said take the bump stocks and we’ll have due process later.

Having listened to him campaigning and speaking over the years, you can tell when he’s reading from the prompters and when he’s not. When he’s not, he goes through all the “bigly” and “yugely” terms he’s known for. For most of the speech he was talking about his four years at the White House and the things that America did and how well everything was going; the economy, jobs, and security.

Trump spoke for an hour and twenty minutes. He didn’t need a drink of water to wet his whistle. Or even a break other than some well-timed speaking pauses to let the crowd cheer. He wrapped up the speech with his famous “Made America _______ Again”. He inserted powerful, wealthy, strong, proud, safe, and finally great.

Before the speeches, while we were sitting and waiting in the front of the media seats, Petrolino looked at me and said “It’s just a day in the life of John and Charlie.”

John & Charlie with their NRA press passes
John & Charlie with their NRA press passes

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