A Kamloops area man whose trade show promotions have raised questions across North America was staging a Red Deer comeback but ended up cancelling weeks later.
Paul Pearson was the organizer of Red Deer’s Rig Expo, which flopped in May 2008. He was also connected with a Big Buck and Bull Classic show being promoted for June 19 to 21. A tentative booking was made for the Kinsmen Arena earlier this year.
The website was taken down some time after some hunters and taxidermists made inquiries.
Pearson’s name wasn’t found directly on the website. The contact name was Dave Cole, who said he is married to Pearson’s sister and rents a place from him.
Cole said the show was pulled in part because of an online smear campaign done by those who remembered last year’s exhibition. Exhibitors paid thousands of dollars in booth space, but fewer than two dozen visitors attended “Canada’s first ever drilling expo.”
With Pearson nowhere to be found, the exhibitors closed the second day of the show. Pearson later said he felt ill and didn’t feel comfortable around a few of the exhibitors. He said the expo had left him broke.
Red Deer city RCMP investigated and determined it was a civil matter.
The Big Buck event was also a tough sell to exhibitors during a slower economy, Cole said.
“Paul had come up with an idea of putting the show on for free — bringing in all the guides and outfitters and hunters to the event and he would finance it,” said Cole, who works on the railroad.
Cole said about 50 companies were given free booth space.
“We weren’t charging any booth space,” said Cole. “I said (to Paul), ‘How are you going to make this happen? You are giving all these spaces away and he said he tried to sell them for $20. The economy the way it is, nobody is going to book a booth space. They’re flat broke.”
Cole said no money was taken from exhibitors.
Reached by phone a few days later, Pearson said no one paid for booth space.
Pearson, 56, said he planned to hold this year’s event for free and in the second year, charge exhibitors.
“I’m just driving over from Kamloops to Red Deer the day or two before to set it up,” he said. “It’s not a big expense, a few hundred dollars or more.”
He didn’t put his name on the website because “it was not about me, it was about the Big Buck Classic and hunting and fishing.”
Southern Alberta outfitter Gordon Burton said he checked into the Big Buck Classic after he found the website used photos of his without permission. He emailed back and forth with Cole.
“I didn’t get a satisfactory response from those people,” he said.
Police were called.
Red Deer city RCMP confirm they are investigating the Big Buck Classic.
The website, www.bigbuckshows.com, reported the first Big Buck Classic Sportsmen Show was first held in 2003 with a record attendance of 18,501 visitors.
The same website added the “past 16 years have been great years with fantastic crowds averaging 23,000 per show.”
Retired City of Kamloops recreation supervisor George Fudge said Pearson ran a hunting show about 15 years ago at the Kamloops Exhibition Association facility, but doesn’t remember it lasting beyond a couple of years and having that many people.
Fudge remembers Pearson being a “fairly large man who wears a cowboy hat and always refers to everybody as ‘buddy.’ ”
The most well known show for hunters is the Big Buck Classic found in Arkansas and run by Catherine and Tom Murchison.
Catherine Murchison said it is not affiliated with the one touted by Pearson or Cole.
“We have a federal trademark on the name Big Buck Classic,” Murchison said.
Pearson said there is a connection because wildlife displays from the Arkansas event were coming to the show in Red Deer.
“We had three huge trucks of displays that travel to the Arkansas and the Philadelphia and the Wyoming Big Buck shows,” Pearson said.
Murchison said she hasn’t done any business with Pearson bringing up wildlife displays. He may have arranged with a private business who attended the Arkansas show, she said.
Pearson did catch the attention of American Cop magazine, which found he was using the magazine’s name without authority to promote his Law Enforcement trade shows in 2007.
Pearson said he doesn’t remember speaking to anybody from the magazine and “them asking me to remove my name from it.”
Pearson was charged with fraud in connection with an incident on June 21, 2006, in Madawaska Valley, Ont. He is accused of defrauding a trade show exhibitor of $1,926 for allegedly not refunding money paid on deposit for a booth on a cancelled trade show.
According to Ontario court documents, he failed to show for a court appearance on Feb. 21, 2007. A judge has issued a bench warrant, authorizing law enforcement to pick him up.
Pearson continues to promote trade shows in Canada and the United States. He advertised an expo last fall at Red Deer’s Westerner Park and later cancelled it.
Pearson said he dropped the Calgary “green” expo, set for last April, because people read online the “show was a scam.”
Monte Hight of St. Martin, Minn., planned to attend the Calgary show so he could promote his Rotochopper business, which sells industrial grinders for recycling purposes. He sent two cheques totalling more than US$2,000 to Pearson.
He’s concerned he won’t get his money back. As of last week, he hadn’t received a refund.
“There was only person who booked into it, we sent them an email out that the show wasn’t going to go on,” Pearson said. “There’d be a refund for it. I don’t have a problem with that.”
He urged the person to call him.
A News/North newspaper from Yellowknife investigated a mining expo being put on by Pearson.
Pearson said then the show was cancelled in Yellowknife because mining partners and exhibitors decided to move the show to a mining site. But the mine site was not identified.
Pearson is now blaming the Red Deer Advocate for the expo’s demise because he said articles about the Rig Expo have remained on the Internet.
When asked about his problems conducting trade shows, Pearson said, “The best way to answer that — 17 years of doing trade shows (and) never had a cancelled show.
“Over a million people attended the shows and then I come to Red Deer and I have a flop on the Rig Expo.”
Serge Micheli, executive director of the Canadian Association of Exposition Management, said they have more than 300 members of professional show producers, show managers and industry suppliers. Neither Cole nor Pearson belong.