Fort Wayne, IN (June 27, 2016)—Sweetwater Sound held its annual GearFest June 17-18, and the event turned out to be the biggest yet. The annual convocation—a mixture of trade show, clinics, workshops and more, all held on the internet retailer’s campus in Fort Wayne, IN—attracted more than 12,000 participants, who took in more than 200 seminars and visited 20 tents that housed more than 400 manufacturers.
Overall, attendance was up 20 percent over 2015, and with sales up by more than 20 percent as well. Sweetwater founder and president Chuck Surack remarked, “One of the most exciting experiences of my career was to personally greet thousands of our customers at the front door as they arrived. Their enthusiasm for Sweetwater and GearFest was both astounding and humbling. Also, I can’t say enough about our incredible employees and their personal, caring, and welcoming interactions with each and every attendee. All this, plus its continued growth in overall attendance and sales, has made GearFest a unique event in the music retail business.”
GearFest hosted a multitude of musicians performing and in workshops continuously on six different stages. Featured guests included Grammy Award-winning pianist and songwriter, Jim Brickman; guitarist Andy Timmons, who has performed with everyone from Joe Satriani to the Beach Boys, Styx drummer Todd Sucherman; the progressive-metal band Periphery; Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn; Queen Cora Dunham, who spent multiple years as a drummer for both Prince and Beyonce, the Chris Tomlin Band, and many more.
A new special attraction was Sweetwater’s recently completed outdoor pavilion, which played host to events over the two days, including a customer appreciation concert and party at the end of the first day. Music was provided by the Sweetwater All Stars, joined by special guests Queen Cora Dunham, Larry Dunn, Jordan Rudess, Paul Reed Smith, Nick Bowcott, Chad Wackerman, Geoff Daking, and Andy Timmons.
Also new this year, Sweetwater offered free camping for tents and RVs. Using the hashtag #gearfest, attendees could view their social media posts on a large display in the Downbeat Diner. Estimated total attendee posts for the two days was more than 20,000. Hourly prizes were given away, totaling more than $88,000 worth of music instruments and equipment.
More than 40 videos, including interviews and product demos, were recorded and posted at Sweetwater’s YouTube channel.