The Night the Outdoor Industry Flexed Its Muscle

Brands, activists, and politicians gathered at the start of the Outdoor Retailer trade show to rally around public lands

The event was intended to celebrate unity in the show’s new Denver home, and its new direction. (Courtesy Outdoor Retailer/Facebook)
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The McNichols Civic Center in downtown Denver was packed with hundreds of people on Wednesday night, all of whom came to celebrate the arrival of the Outdoor Retailer trade show at an event called Night Zero. The event was devoted to celebrating public lands and advocating for their protection. 

Patagonia, the first brand to pull out of the show in Utah because of the state’s politics, projected messages like “#StandWithBearsEars” and “MonumentsForAll” above the buildings on Corinthian columns. Also projected on the building’s exterior was a clock counting time down to February 2, at 9 a.m.—the time when Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments officially shrink in size (per President Trump’s orders), and the lands will open to mining and drilling claims.

The event, which Outside sponsored, was intended to celebrate unity in the show’s new Denver home, and its new direction: one in which the $887 billion outdoor industry and conservation community unite in the fight against climate change, to preserve clean air and water, and protect our public lands.

Maria Handley, the executive director of Conservation Colorado welcomed guests “to the most beautiful state in the country, where the beer is stronger, the peaks are taller, and the recreation is high,” she said. “We are here to make sure that we protect everything that we care for, and that makes Colorado special: like our clean air, our clean water, and a love for the outdoors.”

From a plant-lined stage, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper spoke about how love of place drives economic development. “When people love where they are they’ll do everything they can to make that place better,” he said. He called the outdoor recreation community the greatest ally of the environmental movement. “When these two forces come together the world is our oyster.”

Len Necefer of Natives Outdoors, a gear brand and advocacy organization, reminded the crowd that these important places have been held dear by people for thousands of years before us, and that we must preserve the legacy for those that come after us. 

Peter Metcalf, founder of Black Diamond, said he felt emancipated to be in Colorado in “friendly territory,” and said that “pulling the show from the only state in America that is funding lawsuits to eliminate our public lands, and only state that has pushed the president to take down two national monuments,” he said, “was integral to this industry’s integrity.”

The Outdoor Retailer show kicked off Thursday and runs through Monday.

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