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Sweetwater’s GearFest 2019 Draws Record Crowds

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Featured
  • Upfront
• Created: June 25, 2019

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Crowds gather inside Sweetwater to take advantage of deals and attend workshops and performances

Sweetwater’s GearFest 2019 was a record-breaking success that attracted the largest crowds ever in the event’s 18 year history. GearFest is the nation’s only music and pro audio festival and trade show open to the public, eliminating barriers between customers, vendors, and artists.

The two-day event held at Sweetwater’s headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana on June 21 & 22 gave attendees unprecedented access to nearly 500 vendors and manufacturers of musical instruments, music technology equipment, and pro audio gear. Hourly prizes were given away to more than 300 winners, totaling $30,000 worth of musical instruments and audio equipment.

Attendance was up 13% from last year, with more than 17,000 people gathering on the expansive Sweetwater campus on U.S. 30 in Fort Wayne. Nearly all 50 states were represented along with several countries including Denmark, Japan, and India.

“It is humbling and rewarding to see how GearFest has grown over the past 18 years,” remarked Sweetwater founder & CEO Chuck Surack.“We are always excited to bring our friends together to share our passion for music. One of my favorite parts of the weekend is personally greeting thousands of our customers at the front door as they arrive. I’m always blown away by their enthusiasm.”

There were an astounding 81 live workshops and seminars hosted by 72 of the biggest names in the music industry,including sessions on guitars, recording, live sound, songwriting, and more. Special guests included legendary guitarists Steve Vai and Eric Johnson, founder of PRS Guitars Paul Reed Smith, YouTube sensation & drummer Casey Cooper, bassist Billy Sheehan, producer/engineer Sylvia Massey, and country star Ricky Skaggs, just to name a few.

For those who couldn’t attend GearFest in person, more than 28 hours of workshops and sessions were streamed live online, with 250,000 fans watching from afar. Most of those videos can now be found on Sweetwater’s Facebook pageand YouTube channel.

Here’s a small sampling of comments Sweetwater received from attendees:

“I traveled all the way from Hawaii for my first GearFest, and now that I’ve seen and experienced it, I can say that it’s definitely worth it.”

“This was our first time to attend Gearfest and I was blown away in so many ways. Sweetwater employees were personable, knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions. The vendor tents were a real bonus. Being able to talk to the people about products that I already own and was contemplating purchasing was invaluable. The shows and seminars were amazing in every way. I can’t wait until next year.”

“GearFest is like going to Disney World for me! To have access to so many professionals and my own personal Sweetwater rep is just amazing. I love the ability to try the instruments and gear that I have seen online and only previously read about. My son left with a new Rickenbacker bass this year! Again, this is an instrument that you just can’t find anywhere, but having the ability to actually touch it, play it, and experience it… that was the tipping point for him! GearFest is all about the players and their families. GREAT entertainment, GREAT food, and just WOW. I’m still overwhelmed! I saw Ricky Skaggs.. only five rows back.. FOR FREE!!!!!”

“This was my 5th time attending GearFest and it’s gotten better each year, especially the live performances! The depth of gear has improved, specifically when it comes to guitars. It’s also a great place to check out a ton of effect pedals all in one place. And my kids had a great time, too!”

One of the highlights of the weekend was Friday night’s customer appreciation concert at the outdoor pavilion featuring the Sweetwater All Stars, who were joined by more than 20 visiting artists like Vai and Johnson.

“There is just no other event like this,” said GearFest Executive Director Bob Bailey. “GearFest has become a place not only for the vendors to get to meet face-to-face with their customers, which they rarely get to do, it’s also become a place where the manufacturers look forward to publicly launching new gear.”

“We value our relationships with both our customers and the manufacturers, so it’s an honor to get to bring them together for this event,” added Surack. “Time and time again we hear how unique GearFest is for everyone who’s involved. To be a part of that is just an honor.”

GearFest 2020 is scheduled for June 26 & 27.

Other interesting facts:

  • Sweetwater’s luthiers restrung an incredible 750+ basses and guitars for free.
  • More than 360 people took advantage of the free camping for tents and RVs on the Sweetwater campus, a 58% increase over 2018.
  • Guests got to “walk the line” of a legend inside Johnny Cash’s former tour bus.
  • A giant wall made up of 21 Marshall amp cabinets was the backdrop for photo ops.
  • A custom drum set owned by Slipknot’s Jay Weinberg was on display all weekend.

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