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 located 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," Heather Herron, Sweetwater's vice president of corporate communications, said. "It's the only event like it where the customers, 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, smiling.
Brandon Loshe, a video production artist for Worship Anew, said he's come to GearFest for 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."