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At a yellow kiosk on Gallivan Plaza, visitors scrawled their favorite Utah memories on postcards and stuck them to a large map of Utah.
"It's kind of sad," one visitor said as he completed his card and added it to the "Letter to Utah" on Tuesday night at the final annual Outsiders Ball in Salt Lake City before the Outdoor Retail convention relocates to Denver after more than 20 years in Utah.
The twice-yearly trade show has brought thousands of patrons, peddlers and pedallers to Salt Lake City's downtown, where gear vendors and other industry players have networked, made deals, developed new ideas and formed friendships over two decades as well as touring Utah's wildlands.
James Rein, of Boulder, Colo., recalled an Outdoor Retailer trip in which he helped rebuild trail at Fisher Towers near Moab.
"It was great to work nine hours a day, seeing the stars and the river, being able to camp every night," he reminisced.
The mood at Tuesday night's party shifted between nostalgia and satisfaction that industry leaders had held their ground in trying to persuade Utah politicians to support protections for public lands, especially the imperiled Bears Ears National Monument. When state leaders and congressional representatives pushed for the new monument in San Juan County to be rescinded, industry heavyweights such as Black Diamond and Patagonia urged retailers to boycott the Utah conventions. The show's organizers decided to move Outdoor Retailer and its estimated $45 million local business impact to Denver.
"It's the end of an era," said Jill Dumain, CEO of the Swiss company Bluesign Technologies, which develops chemicals to reduce the environmental impact of textile production for sportswear. Dumain has been coming to the Salt Lake City trade show since it moved from Reno in 1996.
"I just remember coming here, and people were happy we were here," she said. "The welcome and accommodation has been incredible."
Kevin Myette, also of Bluesign, recalled brainstorming with other clothing merchants over dinner at a downtown vegan cafe several years ago.
"We met in the basement, and we were sitting around on couches, talking," he said. "So many things were initiated here in Salt Lake City. The birth of this world of sustainability in the apparel industry happened in this city."
Myette and Dumain chatted with Borg Norum and Nicole Argyropoulos, who are part of Columbia Sportswear's delegation from Portland, Ore. They, too, have fond memories of Salt Lake City.
But, Argyropoulos says, "I am proud of our industry for standing behind what we believe in."
Bluesign's Kurt Schlaepfer agrees.
"The shared philosophy of the industry is why we're going to Denver."
The trade show begins Wednesday morning at the Salt Palace and continues through Saturday.