New outdoor festival coming to Denver this spring to help fill void left by Outdoor Retailer

Plans for a new outdoor industry gathering in Denver, which organizers hope will have a national impact in the future, have progressed to the point where the concept will debut with a “soft opening” this coming spring at Civic Center Park.

The Outside Festival, which could help fill the void left when the Outdoor Retailer left Colorado for Utah, will be a joint effort involving Boulder-based Outside Interactive Inc., a prominent outdoor media company that includes Outside magazine, along with the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, which is part of the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. It will be held in conjunction with The Big Gear Show, which will give outdoors vendors a setting to showcase their brands. The event will be held May 31-June 2.

“We have made tremendous progress,” said Conor Hall, director of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “We’ve got the perfect lead partner with Outside and their massive media reach. The city of Denver has come in; the mayor is very excited about this, and Visit Denver is a key partner. We’ve seen a lot of interest across the industry.”

The event will have considerable promotional clout, given that Outside Inc. websites reach 80 million outdoors enthusiasts monthly.

“We are so pleased, especially me as a Denver native, to see this long held vision of The Outside Festival coming to life in our vibrant city,” Outside Inc. chief executive Robin Thurston said in an email. “Thanks to the work and vision of our partners like Gov. Polis, OREC and Visit Denver, plus a dedicated group of community leaders, we will bring this annual vision to life for the first time in 2024. This innovative annual festival not only celebrates the rich tapestry of Colorado’s outdoor culture, but also serves as a testament to our commitment to embracing the outdoor economy, music, film, inclusivity and sustainability.

“This is about leaders coming together to create an amazing consumer experience — and shaping the next 50 years of the outdoor industry,” he added.

Organizers hope The Outside Festival ultimately will evolve into an outdoors equivalent of South by Southwest, a massive annual event in Austin, Texas, that caters to the music, film and media industries. This year’s Outside Festival will mark a modest beginning, Hall cautions.

“Civic Center Park is a great spot and will really help invigorate and enliven the downtown,” Hall said. “It will be a major undertaking and festival, but we’re trying to manage expectations. It’s not going to be everything to everyone. We have to pick those areas to focus on to do really well. It will be smaller than where we ultimately want it to get to, which is 50,000 people a day.”

RELATEDA look back at The Big Gear Show’s debut in Denver

The Big Gear Show debuted in Denver this past June after Outdoor Retailer moved back to Salt Lake City. Unlike Outdoor Retailer, The Big Gear Show is open to the public, allowing outdoors enthusiasts to check out new products coming soon to stores. Outdoor Retailer was limited to outdoors industry insiders.

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