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What did it take for Outdoor Retailer to come back to Utah?

Posted at 9:41 AM, Jan 10, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The Outdoor Retailer show left Utah in 2017 over the state's policies on rolling back Bear's Ear National Monument and Grand Staircase Escalante. Even though those policies haven't changed, the expo decided to come back to Salt Lake City anyways.

There's no question Utah is an amazing showcase for outdoor experiences and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said that's why Salt Lake City makes for the perfect host.

"I think our voice was quite loud in the process to say, look, we're a complex state, we're red, and we're blue," Wilson explained. "We all work together across party lines...But here in Salt Lake County, we understand you we know you care about what you are all about and I think we're a good partner."

Wilson said she understands why the massive trade show left, but that she was also a big proponent for bringing it back.

"Well, I'll tell you, I don't think my voice was loud enough in the beginning," she said. "Some I think we're perhaps taking positions that are contrary to mine [as] Salt Lake County's leader."

While she and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall's voices spoke loudly on the issues at hand, others said the infrastructure Salt Lake City has in place made it the best option for Outdoor Retailer.

"With the renovated Salt Lake airport, the increase in hotel and convention space," explained Visit Salt Lake President and CEO Kaitlin Eskelson, "And of course easy access to world-class skiing and almost unlimited outdoor recreation activities."

One of the criticisms historically is that the public isn’t invited to the expo, but this year, that’s changing.

"So one of the things we always heard from our community and the public is they're, you know, they're saying, well, we get that OR is a big deal, but we can't even go," Eskelson explained. "So how do we experience it and so we're bringing that to the streets of Salt Lake this year."

Opening night of Outdoor Retailer kicks off Tuesday at 6 p.m. with a free block party for the public. The event will be complete with a trampoline stunt team, live music and drone show.