It was an experiment.
Nobody had ever crossbred adventure with festival.
We didn’t know what would happen.
We offered field trips and workshops of all kinds to see what people would be most excited about. Some required liability waivers, so if attendees got hurt it wouldn’t be our fault. Cliff jumping with LA Swim was the first field trip to fill up, followed by the motorcycle ride to the coast with the Dream Roll ladies, plus urban flyfishing by bicycle with Swift Industries, Path Less Pedaled and Tenkara Rod co. Workshops that got hands dirty were super popular too! Camp cooking with Snow Peak gear, camp chair making with Hand-Eye Supply, hammock dying with the Escape Collective, surfboard shaping with Shaper Studios, nature printmaking with 3 Fish Studio and Pine Fort Press all hit the spot for people, as well. We offered some professional workshops, too, like adventure writing with Charlotte Austin and photography with John Hook and Magdalena Wosinska. Yoga with Lululemon happened for free daily in the woods. Ural motorcycles gave free rides in their sidecar out front. We also had free knife throwing, but it got out of control with no age limit. It’s a miracle nobody took a James brand knife in the leg while we were throwing them around in the Edgevale booth.
We reimagined the current trade show model. Exhibitors had reusable leather wristbands that got them free food and drinks, but there were no badges, lanyards, or plastic wristbands people had to wear since the whole event was free and open to the public. We avoided the typical convention center annoyingness and tried a new kind of venue. The grand wooden lodge-style buildings and forested outside exhibit areas of Portland, Oregon’s beautiful World Forestry Center campus casually welcomed attendees into booths. Brands were able to connect with retail shops and random customers on a very honest, personal level. The booths did not have walls separating exhibitors. Instead, they shared shelf space, defusing any fear of competition. The brands that were brave enough to join us in this experiment are helping us elevate the outdoor industry to new standards. We were sincerely honored and humbled by the exhibitors that joined us.
The party ended up happening organically throughout the day as people from completely different backgrounds sat in the grass sharing stories. New Belgium beer,
Underwood wine, Thomas and Son’s cocktails, Brew Dr. kombucha, Freight coffee, and Treehouse drinking chocolate were served in the grass under a cedar tree at the North bar. Portland’s legendary working class restaurant Tilt ran the food and it was rich! Bands such as The Mattson 2, Little Wings, Cat Hoch, Bitch’n, Ozarks, and Denver played at night to an intimate crowd. The party was chill since most folks had a day full of adventure.It was an experiment and the results were different for everyone. Over 2,000 people came each day, and they all left with different opinions. The main thing we heard was “That was fun! Let’s do it again.”
“It felt like summer camp.” -Hatie Parmeter, Attendee
"Stay Wild means to not lose touch with the spirit of adventure and wonder. When you stay wild, you don’t see boundaries or limitations—only endless horizons.” -Tobias Hayduk, Juniper Ridge, Exhibitor and Workshop Leader
“Heck yes! I drank canned wine while looking through a telescope at the rings of Saturn. I baked cobbler over a camping stove while listening to people talk about art. I met new people, ate too much chocolate, and generally had a blast. I came away with several concrete connections: makers, thinkers, artists, etc., all of whom are driven and successful in their respective fields. Badass. And, for the record, I made more connections at the Stay Wild EXPO than at the Outdoor Retailers show, which says something.” -Charlotte Austin, Adventure Writing Workshop Leader
“LA Swim’s Jeff Edwards, Mokuyobi and Mowgli Surf’s Alex & Julie, and the guys at Hi-tec network were awesome people! They really offered a different sort of feeling—a true connection—that really added to the experience of this awesome festival.” -Haruka Ito, Attendee
“I want to see this event blow up and become a force to be reckoned with.” -Tony Vontz, Edgevale Exhibitor
“I took advantage of some of the workshops and learned how to bike, fly fish, and make my own camp chair. After bike fishing, I met up with a friend of mine I’d told about the EXPO and who ended up taking one of the printmaking workshops. We sat on the lawn in the sun, ate food and drank beer after our classes, and shared what we had done. Life was good.” -Jenn Levo, Attendee
“Crazy, crazy, crazy daze…I was running around the whole time trying to party with everyone. I literally had to put a small fire out one day. When the whole fest was over I woke up and cried. It was a happy cry though. My best souvenir is a fresh scar on my hand from building the Maker’s Market booths.” -Scrappers, Stay Wild’s Main Helper
“The volunteer night was a great start to the weekend, mixing and mingling with other folks I then saw throughout the festival. Heck, I’ve gotten beers with a few since the expo! New friends are always awesome!” -Michelle Week, Volunteer/Attendee
“I went on the cliff jumping adventure and I loved it. It was a lot of fun and a great group. I bought the ticket to go cliff jumping before I bought my ticket to go to Portland! Everyone was interesting. I wish I had been able to stay longer to meet more people.” -Courtney Owen, Attendee
“We loved the variety of vendors and interesting people who worked on or started those brands, as well as the diverse crowd that came through the event. As a vendor it was also fun to be amongst friends I’ve already made. Like Seth from Red Clouds, Emily and Tori from SeeSee, and also Magda! It was a great mix of people I know and love and new people I was super happy to meet.” -Jenny Czinder, Strange Vacation, Exhibitor
“I had a blast! I took the bike fishing workshop, which was excellent (bring it back!). I loved the trade show. But I heard a few complaints about the 4 p.m. closure — some would have liked it open later. Not sure how the vendors felt — I’m really glad they got to get out and not be stuck in their booth in the evening.” -Michael Mann, Attendee
“Kook Out [the surf party field trip] was amazing!”-Hannah Vernasco, All Good, Exhibitor
“I met so many interesting people who were either stoked on ESC and wanted to learn more, or had really interesting helpful info to share about hammocks and domes.”-Kara Caldwell, Escape Collective, Exhibitor, Workshop Leader
“I really enjoyed the energy. It was nice being welcomed since we were visiting from Arizona! I took the printmaking workshop, and had a great time. I would love to see multiple print making workshop sessions next year, and even an adventure hike drawing session would be fun as well for a field trip. The trade show had a good flow. Maybe move the knife throwing to an outside location? My first day at the expo, I went around and met all the vendors. By day two and three I was making purchases to bring back to my friends and family. There were some great bands this year. I would say the Matson 2 were one of my favorites. I would love to see Calvin Johnson next year. I liked how it was laid out, and even when it was busy you could still find a quiet patch when you needed it.” -Matt Connelly, Attendee
“I vote to rename it the Stay Wild Adventure Festival. EXPO sounds pretty trade showy with rod and drape and a big boring square room.” -Jason Goodman, Swift Industries, Exhibitor, Workshop Leader