Q&A — Outside Inc.’s Vice President of Marketing, Chris “CJ” Jerard, Talks Upcoming The Outside Festival

Photo: Brad Kaminski | Outside

The inaugural Outside Festival is right around the corner with the first festivities kicking off on May 31st and running through June 2nd. Taking place at Civic Center Park and branching out to theaters in the surrounding area, The Outside Festival is one Denver hasn’t really seen the likes of. It’s not just another music festival but a celebration of the outdoors as a whole, the beauty of nature and people internalize that beauty within themselves. The line up boasts some of the biggest names in music including Thundercat, Fleet Foxes and Lettuce as well as some incredible Denver locals such as Los Mocochetes. In addition to the music, speakers including athletes, actors, activists, filmmakers and other multi-hyphenates like Shaun White, Quannah Chasinghorse, Jimmy Chin and many more will give talks about everything from athleticism to conservation and much more. Featuring endorsements from Governor Polis and Mayor Johnston, the weekend is sure to be something truly special.

Ahead of the festival, 303 Magazine spoke with Chris “CJ” Jerard about how the festival came to be, what he’s most excited for, the festival’s mission and more.

Civic Center Park

303 Magazine: Hello! I usually start these interviews by having you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about what you do in your own words. 

As Vice President of Marketing, I lead the experiential marketing initiatives at Outside Interactive Inc., which are central to our mission: get everyone outside. My role involves pioneering forward-thinking projects that drive outdoor culture and establish Outside Inc. as the leader in our space to impact our audience, community, and business positively.

303: What was the impetus behind Outside Fest and how did you become involved? 

We want to gather the outdoor community on an annual business to remind everyone how much there is to love about our industry, the sports and activities themselves, and Colorado! Our mission, as I mentioned already, is really about serving the core outdoor enthusiast and growing participation. A physical manifestation of all our media brands has been our dream for a long time.

More than a year ago, Outside and Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) took those dreams to the state’s Economic Development Commission in order to launch the Outside Festival, a South by Southwest-style event in Denver that elevates Colorado’s status as the beating heart of the global outdoor industry through music, film, ideas, and more for both outdoor enthusiasts and B2B. With help from stakeholders in the public, private and non-profit sectors, including Visit Denver, some of the best brands in the world, Mayor Johnston, Governor Polis, the folks at The Big Gear Show, and an incredibly hard-working team at Outside, this gathering becomes a reality this summer on May 31-June 2. This launch has been my obsession and privilege over the last year.

303: The lineup is incredibly eclectic. I mean, you have names like Thundercat, who has a lot of mainstream recognition while having a reputation for putting on boundary-pushing, very challenging shows alongside funk legends and hometown heroes, Lettuce, and local up-and-comers Los Mocochetes. You have Fleet Foxes, who meant a whole lot to me growing up and still do, and I know I’m not alone in that fact, along with more up-and-coming groups like Say She She. How did you curate the lineup? 

We were mindful of building this right from the start so we built a team of partners who are world class. Groundswell Experiential for our production and Superfly to help us help us curate the music programming. These people have been behind the scenes at groundbreaking cultural moments such as the iconic Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, The Prince Experience and REVOLT World. Not only are these well-known names – they are specifically chosen as some of the best LIVE performances in the world. Check out these playlists (Saturday & Sunday) if you want to dive into what you and festival goers can expect from this year’s festival. 

303: Given that this is the inaugural Outside Fest, how do you think you were able to secure such big names? And that’s not just regarding the music. I mean, you have speakers such as Shaun White joining, among many others. What do you think attracts these artists and athletes to the festival and maybe to Denver as a whole? 

I think Shaun and other iconic folks like Quannah Chasinghorse, Diana Nyad, Jimmy Chin all recognize the vision here: that there is a hold and an opportunity to gather as a community to celebrate creativity, inclusivity and sustainability. It’s an easy idea to rally behind once the idea was formed and we started having concrete conversations with our friends and network. The brands at Outside Inc., including Outside magazine and others, have decades of relationships with the legends of adventure and sport. We certainly are excited to the likes of Shaun, Jimmy, Diana and Quannah on board for the inaugural festival. They are an inspiration for so many.

303: Is there a general philosophy that’s held by the festival, or is there a goal or idea that really drives it? 

There is a set of values that were established early on. When working on a project of this scope and size, with so many different cooks in the kitchen with different goals and perspectives, there has to be a true north. I believe this in building anything. “Why are you doing it,” right? We landed on the core values being Creativity, Inclusivity, and Sustainability, and those three things are the filter we push everything through and ask ourselves, “Are we living up to this?”

Beyond that, at Outside, we believe life is best spent outdoors living healthy, connected, and fulfilling lives. Our media platforms are dedicated to inspiring this discovery. Reminding the outdoor community of this while increasing access and breaking down barriers to participation is an exciting purpose for this annual event. And Coloradans, especially those in Denver, embody this ethos. Launching the Outside Festival has culminated everything I’ve done in my career. It’s been a tremendous lift, but a real honor and privilege to help bring it to life with Outside and the public, private, and non-profit sectors of Denver and Colorado at large. 

303: You don’t find many music festivals smack dab in the middle of Denver. What is the appeal of hosting the festival at Civic Center Park rather than somewhere else, maybe outside the city? 

I think it’s important to note that the vision for this event is really to be both a business and industry summit at the same time as an outdoor enthusiast festival. I’ve mapped it out and walked the downtown geography with this in mind. We have the perfect layout for an event that can host a large-scale, SXSW-type event. From Civic Center Park to Confluence Park, we have over a dozen theaters, the Convention Center, Coors Field, Denver Performing Arts Center, Denver Art Museum, Denver Public Library and scores of hotels and retailers –  all within a few blocks of Civic Center Park. This location is poised to be the hub of something much different, and frankly much bigger, than another music festival. The park is such an impressive treasure in downtown Denver. Given our mission to get everyone outside, the location seemed so perfect to kick off in the symbolic heart of Colorado.

303: What are you personally most excited for about the festival? 

So many things! The climbing competition, the cold plunges, the group yoga, the films, the speakers and panels, the mixed drinks and beer, the food trucks, and, of course, the music! Look, I love working with teams to build businesses and projects. Going from a vision to something tangible is really hard work. Just ask the team who has been working on this for the last year. But it is so rewarding. To be given the opportunity, by Outside, the state and city to lead this project, is a tremendous honor. I cannot wait to see it come to life!

Specifically, Sunday night, being surrounded so many people I respect and love, all to the soundtrack of Andrew Bird and Fleet Foxes! Pure joy! And I’m stoked to see Say She She live. Up-and-coming and incredibly talented. 

303: Finally, is there anything that I haven’t mentioned that you’d like to touch on or anyone you’d particularly like to shout out? 

Don’t miss it!

Grab your friends and family and come down to join the fun. Come early to get all the experiences and stay late for all the music. There’s only one first-ever. Be a part of it! 

Visit theoutsidefestival.com to buy tickets and get all the information you need!

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