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Outdoor adventure brands on show at inaugural GO Fest

The Great Outdoors Festival's industry expo runs along the Village Stroll from May 16 to 19
Go Expo Showcase Snowboards will be featuring a Burton ringlet, above, as part of the Great Outdoors Festival's business expo, from May 16 to 19. There will be over a dozen outdoor brands showcasing at the three-day expo. Photo submitted

The organizers behind Whistler's inaugural Great Outdoors Festival (GO Fest) are encouraging outdoor-oriented brands to showcase their products this May long weekend through a business expo.

Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin explained the importance of local businesses aligning with high-profile resort events like GO Fest, which runs from May 16 to 19 with an expected attendance of up to 1,700 ticket holders, by showcasing their featured brands.

"The reason why these expos are great, and coming together to figure out how best to animate these events and how to leverage them, is really understanding the philosophy that when these festivals come to town we often think they're coming to perform, but we're always the ones on a stage," he said.

Expo spaces will be located throughout the Village Stroll and are free of charge, subject to availability. The expo is intended to be a showcase for brands, not a store's activation, and organizers are requesting that only one brand be exhibited per booth.

"There will be tons of outdoor enthusiasts in town, hopefully, and we think the demographic that's going to be attracted to the weekend will be interested in those types of (outdoor-focused) brands," said Darren Kinnaird, general manager of festival producer Crankworx Events Inc.

One example of how the expo will be leveraged is at Showcase Snowboards, which will feature a Burton brand riglet in Mountain Square, special gear developed specifically for children learning how to ride in a safe and fun manner. The smaller, softer flexing boards, boots, binding and specially designed features make it easier for kids to pick up the basic skills of riding.

"Burton has worked hard on producing special programs to allow younger kids to get into the sport, so our focus is on kids aged three to six," said Showcase manager Deanne Gale. "We are featuring it to bring more awareness to the sport of snowboarding."

A goal of the expo is to create momentum for retail outlets and their brands so they will invest in the festival for years to come.

"We've seen great success when the industry's here and involved through Crankworx. They help drive their customers to the stores where their products are being sold," noted Kinnard, who said an estimated 15 million Canadian consumers bought products because they were given the chance to experience them first, according to the Canadian Sponsorship Forum.

"That's exactly the sort of thing we want to create through this expo; this idea of experiential marketing where people get to experience products and learn the benefits of them and then hopefully that'll translate to a purchase," he added.

With the negative reputation May long weekend has garnered over the years in Whistler, Litwin said it's important that resort businesses play a part in helping to shift the perception of the Victoria Day holiday here.

"GO Fest is really the antithesis of the old stuff that's been happening (on the May long weekend), so I think everyone should be proud to be associated with what GO Fest is trying to do," he said.

"Everything we do in Whistler is a team sport. As a community we owe it to each other to participate in these events and help elevate them, so the more we come together to reinforce the themes (of GO Fest) and engage with guests, the better they do."

Crankworx Events Inc. is also suggesting several ways resort businesses can get involved with the four-day celebration of outdoor recreation, like creating a GO Fest-themed window display, offering a special dining, shopping or activity offer throughout the event, creating a festival-themed drink, desert or entrée at your restaurant or café and featuring festival-themed products.

So far, at least 12 brands have signed up for a display booth at the expo, although space is still available for others to get involved. Email for more information. Registration forms can be found on the chamber website at