Building on the success of last year's inaugural Outdoor University, event organizer Ken Barmore is sure this year's May 20-22 rendezvous of vendors and dealers will be bigger, better, more educational and more fun -- if that's possible.
Located at Devil's Lake State Park, near Baraboo, Wis., the Outdoor University boasts excellent climbing on overhanging bluffs, super paddling on shimmering lakes, and fantastic hiking on the historic National Ice Age trail.
Last year, the event that SNEWS attended brought in 191 retail employees from five states to learn from 40 outdoor product manufacturers. This year, Barmore tells us that OU has 70 manufacturers committed and expects more than 300 retail employees.
OU is a camping event with structured and unstructured educational opportunities designed to inspire and teach retail staff by using hands-on, in-the-field educational clinics presented by industry experts and manufacturer reps. Each evening, in a heated lodge area, the event hosts celebrity speakers with slide shows, movies, etc.
"Providing retailers with a fun and great learning experience is our first priority," Barmore told us.
To that end, SNEWS' co-publisher, and author of "Compass & Map Navigator," Michael Hodgson, will be working with Brunton and Cascade Designs to organize an Adventure Quest navigation event with thousands of dollars in prizes to be awarded, according to Brunton's Dan Burden.
OU is also very much about doing well for the community and the industry. Barmore is particularly excited this year as OU will be donating at least $3,000 from the registration proceeds to Big City Mountaineers -- www.bigcitymountaineers.org. Barmore has earmarked the donation to go toward the development of more regional BCM programs for Chicago or other area youth in the Boundary Waters or other local Midwest area.
Camping is free for the event with the only costs to retailers being $6 per catered meal and a state park vehicle permit for every car driven into the park. For more information, go to www.outdooruniversity.org