Most showcases of musical equipment, accessories and software are only open to a select group of industry professionals, according Christopher Guerin, vice president of corporate communications for Sweetwater Sound Inc.
GearFest is open to anyone with a serious interest in gear.
"[GearFest] is a totally free event that is specifically for musicians and audio people," Guerin said. "It's a unique experience. It's the largest of its kind in the country."
This year's edition of GearFest happens June 23 and 24 on Sweetwater Sound's mammoth campus on U.S. 30 west of Fort Wayne.
It will feature seminars, presentations, workshops, musical celebs, mini concerts, maxi concerts and 400 vendors representing their wares.
"The vendors take it so seriously," Guerin said. "They show up in large numbers because they get to interact with so many current and potential customers."
Dweezil Zappa will perform in the outdoor pavilion at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 23 and guitarist Eric Johnson will perform in the same spot at the same time the following day, June 24.
Some non-professionals will show up to the event, Guerin said, but 90 percent of attendees will be people who make a living (or try to) from music.
With a database of 3 million customers and other interested parties, Sweetwater is expecting 15,000 GearFest attendees from around the world, Guerin said.
"We put up a map, a world map, out in the mall with these little sticker stars," Guerin said. "We asked people to put a star where they came from, and it's amazing. It's all over the country, and then there will be people from Europe and somebody from Australia and somebody from Japan."
GearFest is the only chance that some people who regularly do business with Sweetwater have to meet their sales reps (referred to, in Sweetwater parlance, as sales engineers).
They're called engineers, Geurin said, because they don't just sell people stuff. They help design and build what customers need. Given the uniqueness of that relationship, there tends to be a lot for those folks to discuss at GearFest, he said.
Guerin said there will be "dry camping" for tents and RVs and nine food trucks on site.
Preregistration (at www.sweetwater.com/gearfest) is not required but it does speed up the process, he said.
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