This week marks the sixth Outdoor Retailer trade show hosted in the Mile High City, but it’s anything but business as usual at the Colorado Convention Center. On Friday, while outdoor brands continue to showcase their newest wares to media folks and potential buyers inside the building with Denver’s beloved Blue Bear, there will be excitement of a different sort outside: a climate rally.
Organized by professional mountaineer Caroline Gleich and Katie Boué, founder of the Outdoor Advocacy Project, the Climate Rally 2020 will take place on the final day of the trade show. And, that timing isn’t a coincidence.
“We want to bring back that activist spirit of disruption and make it part of everyday conversation,” Gleich says.
Outdoor Retailer is the largest trade show in the country for the outdoor community, a booming industry that generates more than $887 billion annually in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs for a combined $125 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue. However, in recent years the industry has flipped the script on itself, challenging outdoors brands and their employees to consider how can we better protect our wild spaces. The biannual trade show—a third annual show, November’s Snow Show, was canceled last September—first showed its commitment to public lands when it broke from the status quo in 2017 and announced it would be leaving Salt Lake City after 20 years. It wasn’t a business move; rather, it was political, after Utah officials refused to take a pro-public lands stance.
According to Gleich, the Climate Rally 2020 is the logical next step in reminding the industry to continually look in the mirror.
“There was so much buzz and excitement around environmental activism that first year in Denver, but it waned,” she says. “Our industry has a lot of political clout, so we need to mobilize, organize, and unify in order to influence the world.”
Boué agrees, noting that simply attending the rally—which isn’t officially associated with Outdoor Retailer—isn’t enough.
“That’s a big miss with a lot of marches where we gather, we holler, we get fired up, and then we go home and nothing happens,” she says. “But we want to change that. Let’s engage, let’s interact, and let’s get our hands dirty to make systemic change.”
To that end, the duo built resources into the rally to enable actionable change. Led by New Era Colorado, a voter registration table will be present for anyone who wants to ensure their voice is heard in the upcoming elections. A sign-on letter will go out to businesses and individuals alike, requesting they support policies that counteract climate change. Finally, the Outdoor Advocacy Project will launch a toolkit series on their website in tandem with the rally. This toolkit will include informational resources like a climate dictionary alongside reference guides like Climate Science 101, How Science Says You Can Fight Climate Change, and How Climate Change Affects more than the Weather. The toolkit will also include actionable components like How to Write an Op-Ed and A Step-by-Step Guide to Voter Registration.
“This may be the first climate march for a lot of people, so we want them to walk away with excitement for climate activism,” Gleich says. “After all, democracy only works if people participate.”
If you go: Friday, January 31, 1:30–4 p.m.; Rally participants will meet at the Blue Bear in front of the Colorado Convention Center at 1:30 before marching down 14th Street (abiding by all traffic laws and staying on the sidewalks) to Civic Center Park. At 3 p.m., speakers will begin presenting on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol.
Speakers: The female-led lineup includes ultrarunner Clare Gallagher, water protector Deenaalee Hodgdon, former Miss Native American USA Sarah Ortegon, Protect Our Winters founder Jeremy Jones, 13-year-old youth climate activist Haven Coleman, Plastic Pollution Coalition International youth ambassador Madhvi Chittoor, and Marlow Baines, co-youth director of Earth Guardians. For more information or to register, visit the Facebook page.