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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette The Deal Zone was a busy spot Saturday during GearFest at Sweetwater Sound. The festival allows consumers to speak with vendors one-on-one.

  • Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette Yamaha vendor Andy Winston performs on the Yamaha stage during GearFest at Sweetwater Sound on Saturday. GearFest included workshops, performances and two days of the hottest new gear at Sweetwater Sound.

  • Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette Insturments are displayed at vendor Luna Ukes during GearFest at Sweetwater Sound on Saturday. GearFest included workshops, performances and vendors offering the hottest new gear.

  • Allen Cypert watches his son Max, 12, test a Roland JUNO – DS61 synthesizer Saturday at Sweetwater Sound.

  • Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette Max Garn, 11, tests out an Alesis Nitro Mesh electronic drum set Saturday at Sweetwater Sound's 18th annual GearFest. The two-day festival drew attendees from across the globe. “It's very humbling that people would come from around the world to see this,” Sweetwater founder Chuck Surack said. See story on Page 1C.

Sunday, June 23, 2019 1:00 am

Geared toward music lovers

Sweetwater fest draws attendees from across world

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Sweetwater Sound founder Chuck Surack stood next to the front door of his store Saturday greeting visitors as they arrived for the 18th annual GearFest. 

“I've talked to people literally from every state in the country. I've talked to people from New Zealand, Denmark, Japan, China,” Surack said. “It's very humbling that people would come from around the world to see this.” 

Thousands of people streamed through Sweetwater's doors shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday for the second day of the festival that included hundreds of vendors and dozens of workshops. A flea market tent chock-full of used equipment and instruments was set up outside near Sweetwater's new pavilion.

The friendly atmosphere and plethora of musical equipment had many guests sporting wide grins for much of the morning. 

GearFest started, Surack said, because most of Sweetwater's customers are scattered around the country and had never seen the store in person.

“We thought if we put  something together, then they could come here and actually see us, but not only us, the equipment and the manufacturers,” Surack said. “It's done really, really well, it's grown every year.”

About 17,000 people were expected to attend this year's event. 

“Really it's just a great way to help people learn about things going on in the music industry,” said Heather Herron, Sweetwater's vice president of corporate communications. “It's the only event like it where the customer – the music-makers – actually get hands-on access to the vendors.” 

Michael Alston of Fort Wayne has been coming to GearFest since 2011. He keeps coming back for the atmosphere and the cultural experience. A hobbyist, Alston said he was interested in everything.

“I go booth to booth with an open mind of what's in the booth,” Alston said with a smile.

Brandon Loshe, a video production artist for Worship Anew, said he's been coming to GearFest the past three years.

“We're just kind of spoiled to have this here in Fort Wayne, just 12-15 minutes from where I work,” Loshe said. “And it's free. Holy cow.” 

dgong@jg.net