Yesterday, a recommendation from the CDC dramatically changed the in-person event landscape for the outdoor industry for at least the next two months. In a statement released on the agency's website, experts advised cancelling or postponing all gatherings of 50 or more people across the nation for eight weeks, upending the schedules of conferences, trade shows, and meetings. Late Sunday and into Monday morning, event organizers worked to salvage plans and find solutions that comply with the new federal advisement.
Some of the industry's biggest warm-season shows, like the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, scheduled for June 23-25, are proceeding uninterrupted for now. SNEWS reached out to OR for a statement, but received no immediate response. Jennifer Pringle, vice president of marketing communications and research at Outdoor Industry Association, told SNEWS on Monday, "We’re meeting as a management team today to talk about what we can do to support our members. We’re staying in close contact with Emerald as to what’s happening with the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. And we’re keeping close connection with the government as well. But right now, we really want to turn our attention supporting our members.” The Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect show, scheduled for early June, has not yet been cancelled, but organizers are actively working on a virtual event contingency plan.
Events scheduled for later in the year, from late spring through summer, remain largely unchanged for the time being. Terry Wilson, southeast regional director for 360 Adventure Collective, reports that all of the group's spring and summer rep shows, which begin in early June, will proceed as planned.
"For now, we're staying the course with summer shows as scheduled, subject to review based on when the virus peaks," Wilson said. "We’re still hearing that spring samples are arriving on time, and first-buy deadlines for brands are firm at this moment. Most of those fall in the middle of July. We're holding course and seeing how this thing plays out over the next 30 to 60 days. We’re exploring the option of shifting some shows a week or two if needed."
In the near term, however, many events in March and April face a series of difficult choices and an uncertain future. Some have already cancelled. The Bicycle Leadership Conference in Monterey, scheduled for April 14-16, has been postponed to September 29-October 1. Canoecopia in Madison, WI, was pushed to next year. Outdoor Media Summit, scheduled for April 21-23 in Estes Park, Colorado, is postponed to an unspecified date. "OMS attendees should expect an email shortly on exactly what the plans are for next steps,” said OMS founder Yoon Kim.
Many events that fall within the eight-week window are actively working to figure out solutions, but haven't yet reached official decisions. The Western Colorado Outdoor & Sportman Expo, slated for May 1-3 in Eagle, Colorado, is proceeding as planned for the time being, but events manager Krista DeHerrera reports that leadership is meeting tomorrow to discuss changes and a path forward. Adrienne Saia Isaac, director of marketing and communications for the National Ski Areas Association, said that her team "is working to respond to the latest CDC recommendation" with respect to the group's National Convention and Tradeshow scheduled for May 4-7 in Florida. She advises industry members to watch the NSAA's social media channels, on which the group will release announcements "throughout the day [Monday] for more information."
These changes arrive at a time when many outdoor brands—including Columbia, VF Corp., REI, Patagonia, and Stio—have closed some or all of their retail locations in an effort to curb the spread of the virus among employees and customers. Even before the CDC's recommendation, some events like AdventureELEVATE, the Sea Otter Classic, Shoptalk, and the North American Handmade Bicycle Show had already made plans to cancel or push back their schedules.