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While many industry insiders are caught up in pre-Outdoor Retailer madness, the folks at the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance are getting ready for their 40th annual members-only show, which kicks off today in Ogden, Utah, at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center. The show lasts until June 15.
This year’s show, which has grown since 2011 according to Grassroots Outdoor Alliance President Roanne Miller, features a variety of events from networking, to trying out a Via Ferrata, to a night with Aron Ralston. One of the biggest advantages of attending the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance show is that it’s much more intimate than other trade shows, Miller said.
“We try to make it a very intimate setting for retailers and vendors alike. The big trade shows like [Outdoor Retailer] are so large that that personal interaction is kind of lost,” Miller said. “The idea is to create a venue in Ogden that encourages folks to talk. It’s an amazing venue in that it continually inspires people to share conversations and share stories about how their businesses are running.”
Attendees can count on certain recurring features at every show, but every season there’s also something new to look forward to, Miller said. This year’s something different is the Via Ferrata, Miller said, an event taking place today and co-sponsored by the City of Ogden and Amer Sports. Vendors and retailers alike will be taken up steep mountain walls in order to experience climbing without actually having to climb.
While Ralston also will be speaking at the Conservation Alliance breakfast at Outdoor Retailer in August, the Boulder, Colo.-based climber and author will spend a night with folks at the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance show, talking about the feat of survival that inspired him to become an advocate for the Southern Utah Wilderness Association.
Patagonia has offered to match the fees for Ralston’s appearance, which Ralston has in turn donated to the Southern Utah Wilderness Association, if the Alliance sells out the Peery’s Egyptian Theater. Tickets are also being sold to the public, so even if you’re not a member of the Alliance, and aren’t attending the show, you can catch this Wednesday event for $20 or $10 for students.
Ralston told SNEWS that he’d speak about getting trapped in Blue John Canyon, and cutting off his hand to escape. Ralston penned “127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” which was turned into a movie starring James Franco.
“Certainly I’m going to be talking about my story, but mostly as it pertains to my increasing love and desire to advocate for southern Utah, which obviously is not only where my incident took place, but also a place of great natural beauty and recreation potential that’s facing increasing threats from more energy extraction – oil, gas – and uranium mining,” Ralston said.
Miller said Thursday evening “127 Hours” will be screened. All ticket sales from the screening will also go to SUWA.
Currently, the alliance has 40 retail members and more than 60 vendor partners, such as Patagonia, Cascade Designs and Outdoor Research. In addition to being invited to the show, members have networking opportunities and access to discounts to help the mom-and-pop shops compete with larger stores like REI or Eastern Mountain Sports.
“It helps [retailers] to be more competitive in that landscape,” Miller explained. “It’s interesting because most people join based on that concept.”
The Alliance is not for everybody, Miller said. Members have to prove they have good business practices and are financially stable. For more information on how to become a member, visit the website or call Miller directly at 435-645-0964.
But when all is said and done, the Alliance’s intimate show is more of a family reunion than anything, Miller said.
“Seeing everybody there,” is Miller’s favorite thing about the show, she said. “It’s like a family reunion of folks who have helped each other over the years. I’ve been in this business for way to long, since the early ’80s, and it’s amazing to me how you can still see familiar faces. Although it’s a professional business and very serious, and people take it that way, there’s still an element of community, kindness and a sense of family that I think is just a wonderful and unique aspect of our business.”