Amazingly, only about five percent of the show's expected 18,000 delegates and 860 exhibitors from around the world ended up not attending the event the next day, according to Rick Davis, president and CEO of the Salt Lake CVB.
"It's really a testament to those in this industry," Abbot says. "Everybody shared booth space; even rival companies opened up their booths to those who were outside the convention center." As Outdoor Retailer show director Dieter Tremp said on site at a press conference, "This is not about making big bucks, but about pulling together."
The Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America (ORCA) took the lead in matching displaced pavilion exhibitors with willing indoor suppliers, and the show organizers worked hard and fast to set up systems to help people retrieve product from the destroyed tents.
In addition to coordinating the booth space donations, ORCA also established a relief fund. The fund, which within weeks had already raised more than $80,000, is designed to pay for education expenses for Grandy's two children; to offset medical expenses not covered by attendees' insurance; to leverage low- and no-interest loans for companies whose booths were wiped out or who lost prototype equipment; and to help replace decades-old trees that were uprooted by the tornado.
Show manager Miller Freeman waived the on-site registration fee, encouraging attendees to donate the money to the ORCA relief fund instead. The company also offered full refunds to pavilion exhibitors, as well as refunds for anyone who hosted another company at their booth and for those who lost business because the show was shortened from four days to three.
"We know we won't recover all of our expenses," says Denny. "I guess we'll have to wait and see how good our insurance really is."
The city pulled together for the conventioneers as well, with Davis and his SLCVB staff scurrying to find rooms for the 381 Wyndham Hotel convention guests who were displaced when the twister blew out the hotel's windows. Local hotels made room for the stranded guests.
"The hospitality industry rallied late into the night to salvage the show," Davis says. The summer show pumps $15 million into Salt Lake's economy, and combined with the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, accounts for 20 percent of the city's annual convention revenue.
"Doing business in Salt Lake City can be a little dysfunctional in terms of the number of hotels and taxis, and its alcohol policies," Denny says. "But everyone I talked with who ever had any reservations about the city has been entirely converted by the swift, comprehensive, and sometimes humbling response the city gave us." he says. "Beyond helping those who were injured and stabilizing unsafe areas, our show was their top priority."
The Wyndham Hotel was scheduled to reopen within a week of the twister, and the 20,000-seat Delta Center, which lost windows and a good portion of its roof, was scheduled to be fully restored within six weeks. And, according to Davis, the Salt Palace Convention Center expansion to 370,000 square feet is still on track. Next year, the show's purveyors of Gore-Tex, hip waders, and kayaks should all be housed inside the expanded center.