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I got to the Birmingham store at 17:00 on Thursday evening. A group of eight UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) students showed up at 18:30. A close friend of mine drove up from Auburn University and arrived later in the night. We all camped out until the Grand Opening on Friday, 10/4 at 1000. My friend and I cooked some camp food on our backpacking stoves, and the students brought a charcoal grill and served up some hot dogs. We cooked s'mores at midnight and hung out. Great fellowship with people that love REI & love to #optoutside. We had lots of fun! One of The Summit security guards came and hung with us around the clock. I think most of us stayed up and pulled all-nighters, only two guys slept. I was surprised at the love and support from all of the REI employees not only from Thursday night, but also Friday morning. Some were surprised we were camping out. I enjoyed getting to hang with the various REI employees and the REI corporate staff from around the country. I would do it again... I would take another vacation day from work, to experience this. It is worth every bit of it!! Something us guys were talking about after it all happened on Friday, there was not a price you could put on it for the whole ordeal. It was not even about getting the special edition water bottle, or the hopefully highly anticipated $100 gift card -it was not about the amount of the gift card- from start to finish, it was all a priceless experience.
We have other outdoor stores here in Alabama but, REI to me serves as a place that ransoms peoples hearts for adventure, and brings people to the outdoors. Maybe we can up that 53,000 Alabama members to somethings close to 1 million -that would be 1/5 of Alabama's population. That would be splendid goal! Glad we can maybe lay a footing for more people to get outside.