Hanging out with a beer at the booth near the end of the day is an Outdoor Retailer trade show tradition. But talking about issues like trade tariffs and wilderness legislation at the show? Well, political discussions are all too often reserved for panels and public speakers. However, the Outdoor Industry Association launched what it hopes will become a new tradition at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2006 with its Policy and a Pint sessions, held at 3 p.m. each day of the show at the OIA booth.
The point of the sessions was to give people in the industry the chance to talk about how the association could address land and trade issues, and there was spirited discussion along with the Squatter’s Pale Ale. “Political discussion can sometimes be daunting and contentious,” said OIA Legislative Affairs Associate Alex Boian. “It doesn’t have to be. We hope that this creates an open forum where people can learn more about political issues, share tactics to address them, and enjoy a cold beer.”
For the most part, from what SNEWS® saw, it worked. During the inaugural Policy and Pint session on Thursday afternoon, August 10, people were talking in a relaxed atmosphere nursing beers and holding court in various discussion groups.
Russ Crispell of the Association of Outdoor Research Education got passionate about public land regulations that threaten to ban education groups from the backcountry.
“We have been identified as outfitters instead of educators,” he told OIA’s Government Affairs Director, Amy Roberts, who offered future help with ideas to solve his problems.
Suki Molina of the Idaho Conservation League came to drum up support for a bill currently in Congress that would create a new Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness area near Ketchum.
Boian held court with a pint and explained to a group how he could help outdoor companies bring import tariff issues that threaten to crush their business to the desks of Washington lawmakers. “A lot of people just don’t know how to take the first step,” he said. “I can get the ball rolling.”
And then there were the attendees who seemed content not to talk about politics at all but to simply move from group to group, listen to the conversation, and drink it all in.
Look for OIA to continue this new-found tradition at Winter Market -- maybe this time with something warming?