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Boise Rec Fest founder says launching a festival similar to starting a business

Brett Adler, Boise Rec Fest founder

Brett Adler, Boise Rec Fest founder

“We’re not trying to be the Boise River Festival,” said Brett Adler, director of the inaugural Boise Rec Fest set for June 26-27 in Ann Morrison Park.

Adler has nothing against the River Festival. In fact, when he visited the Treasure Valley nine years ago from his native New Jersey, the River Festival was one of the first things he experienced here.

It’s just that the Boise Rec Fest is a different animal.

The event was conceived a few years back by Adler, who called it “a ‘duh’ idea, an obvious idea” to create a festival that focused on Idaho’s many recreational opportunities.

The Rec Fest idea occurred to Adler while managing event finances for the Sawtooth Music Festival in Stanley.

“I’ve had ideas all my life,” he said. “I finally got to the point where I said to myself, ‘Enough talking about it, just do it.’ … Part of what gave me the confidence is that there were so few people who heard about (the Rec Fest idea) that didn’t get it.”

Adler, 37, spent most of his career in the software business and said some of his past work experience has helped him in organizing the Rec Fest. He believes starting a large event is a lot like an entrepreneurial endeavor.

“This is just like starting a business, where you have this concept,” he said. He then talked about “the chicken-and-egg thing.”

The idea comes first, he said, but to take it to the next level requires financing. In the case of a recreational festival, participants need to be lined up. In order to get participants lined up, there need to be financial backers; to get financial backers requires having participants on board – in other words, the chicken-and-egg thing.

His effort to fully realize the Boise Rec Fest started last March. Adler said he originally tried to go it alone. “I had worked on it, but the best thing was to get a team behind it,” he said. He participates in a number of organizations, such as Boise Young Professionals, and is on the board of directors of Idaho Smart Growth, among other entities.

“I tend to get very involved,” he said. He was able to pull together a leadership team from his network of acquaintances, as well as a few people outside his general circle.

He and his team enlisted the help of Boise business consultant Troy McClain, who gave them guidance on how to proceed in getting the Rec Fest up and running, with funding, and participation from vendors and exhibitors.

Adler said McClain advised him: “People like to see things.” In other words, don’t just approach people with a concept. Have documentation, something akin to a business plan.

The Rec Fest was starting to come together but, Adler stated, there was still a certain amount of operating on intangibles. “We had to get people going on faith and trust in us,” he said.

Finally, financial support – and encouragement – started coming in from backers. Among the first people to come on board was Jennifer Wernex, communication manager with the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

“At Idaho Parks & Recreation, we represent a broad spectrum of recreation in Idaho, and we felt that this is the type of event that is really going to showcase the many different types of ways to experience Idaho, and the many forms of recreation available to us in the state,” Wernex said. “Getting people outdoors in new ways, or just getting people outdoors in general, is something we want to be a part of.”

The type of exhibit Idaho Parks & Recreation will host at the Rec Fest is representative in many ways of what participants can expect to see at the event. The agency will have a booth highlighting ATV and motorbike safety training, snowmobile safety and avalanche awareness, and boating safety.

Adler said the majority of the event will be exhibits.

He explained some of the exhibits will be interactive, but the primary focus is on educating the public about recreational opportunities – all while listening to live music and eating and drinking at the family-friendly festival.

Some of the participatory activities include disc golf, basketball, a skate park, and tennis.

Unlike the Boise River Festival, which was spread out across a number of venues throughout the city, the Rec Fest is largely centered in one location at Ann Morrison Park.

“The more centralized, the better,” Adler said. “It’s easier for participants.”

He also stressed: “We’re a festival, not a market,” meaning emphasis is being placed on celebrating Idaho’s recreational diversity rather than on selling products.

In all, there will be around 70 exhibitors.

“You can’t be 100 percent local, but we want the emphasis to be local,” Adler said.

He also explained the name for the festival was chosen for its location, not because it’s Boise-centric. “The emphasis is on being about Idaho,” he said.

Adler has formed his own nonprofit, called Idaho Rec Connection Inc. With this entity, he and his team plan to expand on the Idaho recreational theme. He said Idaho Rec Connection is like a new business, something he wants to build into a full organization. It’s not an event company, he stressed. Its purpose is to link people up with all the sporting opportunities the state offers.

Essentially, the June 26-27 event is just the beginning for Adler and Idaho Rec Connection.

“The Rec Fest is our ‘anchor tenant,'” he said. “We need to lock this down before we look at other things.”

About Gaye Bunderson


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