This summer OARS launched its first-ever Boathouse Tour, a series of one-of-a-kind storytelling and community-engagement events at several of the company’s operational outposts throughout the American West. Fueled with support from partners, YETI, Chaco, and NRS, along with local sponsors, the goal was simple: Open their doors to all, show some films, have fun, and find common ground through community and conversation around public lands and waters.
Off the beaten path and hometown to its core, the OARS Boathouse Tour sold out each event and drew crowds of more than 200 in five locations including Moab and Vernal, Utah, Lotus, California, Lewiston, Idaho, and Flagstaff, Arizona, and raised more than $16,000 in total for local youth organizations.
“We had an unprecedented opportunity to shift the conversation of our public lands and waters toward a common understanding and vision and to draw on the basic needs of us as humans to connect and socialize. We started this shift,” Stacy Bare, an adventure and health consultant and founder of Adventure Not War, said. “So many events are exclusive and only open to those of like minds, but we faced this head on and brought people together in a safe, inviting realm where we could leave all the other BS at home. In Vernal, we saw oil field workers and veterans breaking bread with nonprofit volunteers and government employees. In Lewiston, we saw jet boaters and bullet factory workers standing around a fire drinking a beer with river guides and local teachers.”
Bare, a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and an Iraq War veteran, emceed the majority of the Boathouse Tour. He added, “We created an inclusiveness and a shared dialogue and experience where everyone felt like they were a part of an integral community.”
Featuring a dynamic selection of award-winning films, the Boathouse Tour highlighted one in particular at each location: Return from Desolation. This short film shares the story of war-veteran-turned-river-guide Garrett Eaton and his fight for redemption and balance through the wild rivers and public lands within Utah’s Desolation Canyon. Eaton and his family, who call Vernal, Utah home attended the majority of the events and connected with guests throughout Utah and at the final event in Lewiston, Idaho.
“The films offered a way to articulate the importance of our natural landscape and access to it in a way that amplified the connection of all people in the community, and that they didn't have to belong to any exclusive group to do so,” Justin Clifton, Return from Desolation filmmaker, said. “When the audience watches a film in a crowd with friends, family, and even strangers, it sparks a conversation about shared experience and gives the audience access to some of these wild places and waters in a way they didn’t have before.”
In addition to breaking down some of the polarized thinking around public lands, the Boathouse Tour celebrated the significant role guides and outfitters play in local economies and their efforts to protect the lands and waters that make up the bedrock of the industry.
“The Lewiston community is humble and celebrates self-sufficient, blue collar folks who take pride in their family and the satisfaction of a hard day's work. The Boathouse Tour felt like the best family reunion you have ever been to,” said Hillary Mosman, Commissary Manager for OARS Dories and a Lewiston, Idaho native. “Maybe you didn't recognize everyone, or know where they came from, but you knew that we all love the same thing—our rivers. Once the films began and you could hear the cheering, see folks nod in agreement with touching rivers stories... there was something in the air. We were connected.”