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“I didn’t expect this,” announced Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, stopping to assess a Confluence both shaking with reggae beats. “The marketing is fantastic.”
Kempthorne was certainly not expecting Ashley Warren to drape a lei around his neck in the middle of the show floor either, and then invite him to Go Lite’s Coco Loco Luau party for its new coconut apparel. But the Secretary liked what he saw. He grabbed more leis and draped them over his secret service entourage.
An avid outdoorsman, Kempthorne, who was at the show to speak during the launch of the Outdoor Industry Association’s $730 Billion Active Outdoor Recreation Report, spent time chatting with companies and investigating new technology. He made stops at The North Face, Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Aire, Marmot, W.L. Gore, Smith, Black Diamond, Vasque, Buck Knives, and Cascade Designs. And like most show attendees he stopped in the aisles to taste a Larabar and sip PowerBar drinks.
On the floor, Kempthorne repeated the same message he stressed at the OIA press conference earlier in the day: the outdoor industry is filled with passion and dynamism. At Black Diamond he discussed the evolution of climbing gear with Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf, and at Cascade Designs he was treated to a demonstration of MSR’s Reactor stove.
The interior secretary came off as a friend to the industry, despite major misgivings from environmental groups and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). The LCV made this brief statement when Kempthorne was nominated to replace Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior in March: “During his career in Congress, Governor Kempthorne earned a paltry 1 percent lifetime LCV score. Enough said.” But on the show floor the conversation shied away from politics.
Kempthorne was obviously impressed by all the goodies on the floor and wandered from booth to booth like any outdoor junkie making his first run though the exhibits in the Salt Palace. And Kempthorne always found a way to talk about having fun outside, whether he and Aire’s Alan Hamilton reminisced about running rives in Kempthorne’s home state of Idaho or he was telling Smith’s Blair Clark about how he wears the company’s sunglasses when he rides his Harley.