Unfortunately for Willyfinder, a remote control Ferrari and an oversized silk shirt with a Wolf’s face on it (easily our favourite) wasn’t the only thing that Christmas brought us. Oh no, the season that keeps on giving also left us with a pot belly that would have made Andy Fordham wince.
Any hopes that we would be losing ourselves in a whirlwind of runs, cycles and slim line salads were rapidly dashed with the realisation that we were heading to the states for a two week stint to take on the illustrious Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.
25,000 attendees, 1,000 brands, 4 days, 1 Willyfinder stand and more free beer than you could shake a stick at.
Whilst Willyfinder were going through the motions during the working day (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865645388/Deseret-News-top-5-items-at-the-2016-Outdoor-Retailer-Winter-Market.html Oh, oh my, how on earth did this get in here?!), it was during the evening where we really got stuck in. Salt Lake City has the image of being quite a weird place given its religious connotations and we can’t lie to you, it is a bit odd but when the show is in town, it was a phenomenal night out. Beer pong, shuffle board, karaoke, iced bars to keep your beer cold, there was nothing that this city didn’t have but there was one place that truly set it apart from the rest.
It was an innocent Saturday afternoon on the stand and we were discussing with our stand neighbours, who were local to Salt Lake, where was best to target on a Saturday evening. When the line “do you want to see a weird ass, traditional, country, PROPER American night out?” was uttered, there was only one obvious answer. They began to speak about this mythical place called the Westerner which was about a 20 minute drive out of the city. Not a problem. They said that you should probably be quite well oiled by the time you got there. Not a problem. They also mentioned that you needed to be prepared to be shocked at what you saw. Not a problem. And with that, we got out of our Willyfinder’s and headed to the nearest watering hole to get working on clause 2. A few ales went down that barely touched the sides due to the excitement amongst the Willyfinder camp, before we hopped into a taxi towards - what had quickly become the holy grail to us – The Westerner.
There are no words to describe the feeling felt by the team when this is the sign that you are greeted with on exiting the vehicle.
Not only was the sign something from straight out of Roadhouse but the clientele were off the schnitz. Stetsons? Check. Cowboy boots? Check. Bollo Ties? Check. Over hearing the term “Y’all” being said without a hint of irony? Check. Greeted with the line “You boys aren’t from round here” on entry? Check. It was everything I had hoped for and more and I haven’t even got in yet.
Walking in I felt like an England debutant walking out to Wembley to receive his first cap. I’d been through the tunnel and I was just staring in awe at the crowd around me. Taking it all in and relishing my opportunity. Directly to my left was a state of the art mechanical bull with a queue of willing participants that went out of the door and into the garden. At the time there was someone on there who I’m convinced did it for a living as I’d watched it for 20 seconds straight and he didn’t look like he was getting buckarooed any time soon. If that was going to be the same for all the others queuing then I wouldn’t have mounted the beast till the following week. That didn’t matter though as I’d spotted my entertainment for the evening. There was a dancefloor that dominated the bar and it wasn’t any normal dancefloor. Oh no. They weren’t bumping and grinding to R Kelly or going ape sh*t to the latest Bieber number as I tend to do on the D floor on a Saturday night but instead...they were line dancing. That’s right, line dancing.
A round of bourbons and Bud Lights later (seasoned veterans after two nights on the Johnny Cash stateside) and we were all up there. The country music was blaring with a song we’ve obviously never heard of but people were going so wild it might as well have been the Jackson five playing “I want you back” live in the flesh. We parked ourselves in the middle of the melee and just assumed that we’d pick it up.
The people around us were doing their best to help these hapless Brits master what, in truth, was four very basic steps but we were nowhere. Most embarrassingly was that everyone else was wearing very audibly pleasing Cowboy boots which made a resounding thud every time they executed a move. In contrast, my Adidas Sambas were squeaking the roof off, further highlighting my inability to walk forwards and backwards in time with the others. That was the least of Willyfinder’s problems though as I looked to my left to see my second in command spinning an invisible hula hoop around his midriff when everyone else was pacing forward.
The song came to a finish and there was genuine belief that we were on the way to mastering the moves and were excited about the next song coming on so that we could iron out any outstanding issues with it and get it nailed down. Some Country singer started belting out the next one but something wasn’t right from the off. It became apparent very quickly that there was a different dance for each different song and they’d started us off on the green slopes. Absolute shocker. It was time for another round of bourbons and bud lights and after that, all inhibitions were left at the bar and we comically hopscotched through every remaining song that evening before waking up the next day with sore feet and sore heads. Lush.
We spent a whole two weeks out there on a strict diet of burritos, pizza, burgers, chips and lager yet surprisingly, when we returned, our paunch was even bigger than when we went away...