Salt Lake-area residents planning to dine in the city this weekend better make reservations well in advance.
That's because a record 21,000 visitors are expected to fill hotels and restaurants to near capacity for what appears to be the largest Outdoor Retailer Winter Market ever staged.
The not-open-to-the-public show connects buyers from outdoor specialty stores with more than 900 manufacturers from around the world.
The show opens Wednesday with a demo day at Solitude, then begins a Thursday-through-Sunday run at the Salt Palace. The Winter show and its summer counterpart, which have been staged in Salt Lake City since 1996, are typically Utah's largest conventions. The Winter Market is expected to generate close to $20 million for the area economy.
"We are expecting an attendance uptick," show manager Kenji Haroutunian said. "We can see hotel registration numbers are coming in quite strong. There will be 273 new exhibitors at the show. This is the biggest Winter Market ever staged, even without much snow."
New this year is a confluence between Outdoor Retailer and the Sundance Film Festival, which also opens this weekend, as well as the fact that snowboarding giant Burton will attend the Winter Market for the first time.
Outdoor Retailer joined Sundance as an Institute Associate, to provide year-round support for the Sundance Institute. Outdoor Retailer will operate an Innovation Gallery on Main Street in Park City during Sundance that will be open to the public for browsing. It also will serve as a post-premier party venue for select films.
"Our formal support for the Sundance Film Festival is a natural extension of OR Rocks!, where we deliberately seek to celebrate the music, art and films that resonate with the culture and values of outdoor-minded businesses and consumers," said Haroutunian.
Outdoor Retailer will be presenting "The Adventure Theater" from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Salt Lake Art Center/UMOCA, adjacent to the Salt Palace. This area, which is open to both show attendees and the public, and will host a variety of screenings and premiers that will appeal to the outdoor industry.
This also marks the 12th year for the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival. Local filmmaker Bill Kerig will premier "Ready to Fly," about the Park City women who pushed to get women's ski jumping added to the Winter Olympics.
Haroutunian said the fact that Burton, a major player in the snowboarding industry, is attending the Winter Market for the first time could change the landscape of the show, adding action sports to the proceedings.
Outdoor Retailer spokeswoman Maura Lansford said organizers hope that recent signs the economy is slowly picking up will benefit those attending the show, but noted said that outdoor retailers and manufacturers actually did well during the recession.
"The fact that we are a lifestyle passion-driven community speaks to how we came through the downturn," she said. "There is great buzz about the event."
According to Visit Salt Lake, the outdoor recreation industry contributes $5.8 billion annually to Utah's economy, supporting 65,000 jobs, generating nearly $300 million in annual state tax revenues and producing nearly $4 billion annually in retail sales and services.
"It is still exciting that the outdoor industry continues to embrace our destination and the business opportunity this trade show represents for the industry," said Scott Beck, president and CEO of the convention and visitors bureau. "Our community's commitment to our natural environment, as evidenced by the ongoing installation of the nation's largest rooftop solar panel array [at the Salt Palace], is a reflection of our commitment to clients such as the outdoor industry. The participants in the two annual Outdoor Retailer Markets have helped to engender a vibrant Salt Lake community that celebrates the outdoors in many ways."
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