As of about two weeks ago I had never been to an outdoor sports trade show. As of this past weekend, I got to go to two giant winter sports trade shows; one in Salt Lake and the other in Denver. I had no idea what to expect really. The most I knew about trade shows I’d heard from my manager Chuck at US Outdoor Store, and those stories usually involved lots of free drinks, dinner, swag and loong meetings. I wasn’t going to either of these things to buy however, so really I had no idea what to expect except that I was excited to finally get out to one of these things.
OR was the first show I got to go to. This past summer I linked up with Smartwool in Portland, Oregon and had the amazing opportunity to join their FanField Tester program. I did a couple photo shoots with them and kept in touch with Molly (a fantasticly cheery and motivated lady), who kept encouraging me to get out to Steamboat and sleep on her couch. While I haven’t the chance to crash in Steamboat yet, I did get invited to go check out the Smartwool booth at Outdoor Retailer.
When I first got in I called Jeff (Smartwool’s electronic media master) and he helped me navigate the way back to their booth. This was probably the only time I went from point A to point B during the show without getting lost and also visiting points C, D, E, F, G, Q, L, A.2, F again, ending up back at A and having to start from square one.
Molly and Jeff had some meetings they had to take care of in the morning, so I opted to wander around the show and take it all in. Let me say this now: the Salt Palace Convention Center is HUGE and that place was packed. I still don’t know where I ended up in there. It was really awesome though- my big focus the last couple years has been on the snowboard industry; snowboard companies, goggle companies, outerwear companies, lifestyle companies, companies whose logos involve arrows, crosshairs and hammers. It was rad to be suddenly engulfed in the rest of the outdoor world and see how the other half lived.
Finally Jeff and Molly were free and we got to chat and hang out at their booth. After feeling mildly overwhelmed by the hundreds of other booths it was cozy coming back to one where they had lawn chairs, lots of wooly things, a DJ and a photobooth inside of their #SWFanVan.
Getting the chance to sit down and ask Molly and Jeff any and every question that came to mind was really amazing for me. I think it’s fantastic that these two people were happy and eager to share with me the process of putting together a booth for a trade show, how they got their jobs, how things get done within Smartwool, etc. I don’t know exactly where I’m trying to end up right now career-wise, but I am trying to learn as much as I can about all parts of the outdoor/adventure sports industry. It’s reassuring when people you look up to will sit down and talk about all aspects of their jobs with you in an engaging way.
This year also happens to mark Smartwool’s 20th anniversary. Right around 4 o’clock a convention center employee wheeled over to the booth a couple kegs, some BaBa Black Lagers, a few bottles of wine and then the #SWFanVan really started getting some good photobooth shots. Around 6, it was time to move for the 20th anniversary party down the street!
I have to say this anniversary party was one of the best accessorized industry parties I got to (between both SIA and OR). Jeff was handing out shades, mustaches, headbands and construction hats at the door, they had tables of signature snacks from the 90’s, the band had at least two outfit changes (that I remember) and there were multiple ice-sculptures around the yard (I was trying to figure out the whole time if any were ice luges, but I never solved the mystery. It was probably a good thing though because by the end of the night I was drinking wine coolers.)
All in all, it was a really fun time and a fantastic way to kick off my first adventure out to an industry trade show. I also had a definite hangover from those wine coolers, but I didn’t really care because they tasted like amazing when I was drinking them.
Here are some more photos you can check out from my time with Smartwool at OR. Disclaimer: Some of them are blurry because I was too busy enjoying free drinks to realize I was taking impressionistic photos. I wanted to include them though because they were part of a really good time, and because art is in the eye of the beholder and so I’ll call them art for now.