Outdoor Retailer has stirred up some controversial topics in our city since the show’s birth 10 years ago. From activists fighting the toxic water-resistant products being sold, or local residents voicing their opinion on the upset it puts on the city’s daily routine, overall O.R. (as the industry calls it), kills it when they land their four-day marketplace on our stomping grounds.
The winter and summer shows collectively bring a $40 million dollar boost to our local economy per year. That means restaurants, bars, shops, and people in any service industry occupation see a significant percentage increase in their income in a short amount of time. If you are anywhere near the downtown area during the bustle, you can tell that the landscape just “feels” different. As I was walking to the Salt Palace on the city’s main streets, I even thought to myself, “This is kinda fun. It kinda reminds me of how I feel in NYC.” I stress ‘kinda’ because earlier that morning I was kinda irritated with the constant stop-and-go traffic on my way to work. What usually takes me a good seven minutes by car, took me a solid 15. And some dude behind me flipped me off, and aggressively honked his horn for cutting him off. I had to get to work! I kindly returned the middle finger gesture, and noticed Massachusetts plates—damn New Englanders.
Besides some personal hiccups with the attendees, (one DB told me his products were mostly for hippies—effin’ hippies), I actually was very impressed with the show. You can find anything you want there. Food products, survival products, camping equipment, even more mainstream items for the runner, yogi, or biker. Even the now trendy Carhartt brand had a giant two-story booth equipped with dressing rooms and a sitting area. The entire show kept my eyes wide and my head on a swivel. And of course, true to the stereotype that typically suggests that outdoor men (& women) are pretty down to earth and cool, I was able to strike up a few conversations with exhibitors that didn’t leave me feeling like I begrudged their existence.
Some research for this article led me to some interesting facts about what Outdoor Retailer’s relationship to Salt Lake is like. Because the show has dramatically grown over the years, the 25,000 expected attendees can’t fit into the Salt Palace or the city’s hotels anymore. The local business revenue is so crucial to our overall economy’s health during the event, that this year, to convince O.R. to stay in SLC for another two years, state officials gifted a 150,000 sq. foot exhibition tent, which cost $2.66M. That’s no chump change, and O.R. is a freakin’ big deal—at least to our government.
My shout out to everyone: next time Outdoor Retailer is in town, patiently grin and bear the attendees’ demanding disposition as they grace our favorite hang-outs, and remember your buddy just made an extra $100 bucks tending bar the other night—“Drinks for the house!”