As the snow begins to melt in Southern Utah, ATV and Side-by-Side enthusiasts from around the nation flock to one of the few remaining OHV-friendly states in the country. Not that other states are against ATVs – there just aren’t many places left where it’s okay to drive your ATV or UTV down the street and out to your favorite riding area.
Utah is a Mecca for ATV clubs and boasts some of the largest and longest running ATV and UTV Jamborees in the nation. The Tri-State ATV Jamboree began way back in 2004 and has seen steady growth over the last 10 years. Interest has been so great that the Tri-State ATV Club had to cap registration this year at 450 participants to keep things manageable and make sure everyone had a great experience.
In 2004 the event consisted of six guided trail rides for the 87 participants. This year, the 450 plus riders and volunteers had 21 different trails to choose from spanning the entire Tri-State area (Nevada, Arizona and Utah).
Jamboree headquarters were set up at the Washington County Fairgrounds, about nine miles from the town of Hurricane, Utah. Dry camping was available at no cost in the fairgrounds parking lot, while several other RV parks and a few hotels were booked up solid for the weekend.
Most participants arrived on Wednesday to check in, receive their gift bags and sign up for rides. To stay within compliance and make sure everyone has a safe and fun experience, every ride is lead by an experienced trial guide who knows the area and can point out some of the highlights along the way. Some of the more popular rides fill up fast, but with 21 to choose from over the course of three days, most people can find at least one day to get in on the ride they’re looking for.
Included in the $110 registration fee is a hot breakfast every day (Thursday through Saturday), all trail passes, event t-shirt, raffle ticket, $10 gift card and an amazing BBQ dinner on Friday night. The event also featured an ice cream social Thursday evening. That might not sound like a whole lot of fun to some people, but the idea is to create events that will bring people together at the event area, encourage them to interact with and support the vendors on site and build relationships with their fellow ATV riders.
I was actually on hand as a vendor and presenting sponsor, but that didn’t keep me from having a little fun and getting in on the festivities. Because I spend a fair amount of time at races and competitive events, the laid back atmosphere and no pressure environment was a breath of fresh air. Everyone is participating simply to have fun and enjoy riding ATVs in some of the most scenic landscapes our country has to offer.
No rides were taking place on Wednesday, so after checking in and setting up my display I had the opportunity to visit with other riders about what we could expect. I didn’t actually bring a machine with me so I was hoping to find a kind soul that would let me tag along on a ride or two to get out and enjoy the trails.
Thursday morning came early as participants rallied to the Jamboree headquarters for breakfast before lining up in their perspective groups for the day’s rides. Because none of the rides took off from the headquarters, everyone was forced to trailer out to their specific trailheads. While riding right from the event area would have been nice, having everyone mobile greatly expanded the territory of the event. One day you could be riding the dunes at Sand Mountain and the next you could be riding a mountain pass at 6000-feet elevation.
I wasn’t able to procure a ride on Thursday so I spent the day catching up on emails and other work. The headquarters really turn into a ghost town after people leave for the day’s rides. A handful of vendors and volunteers remained onsite, but nearly everyone was out on the trails.
People started meandering back into the vendor area around 4:00 p.m. after getting cleaned up and grabbing some dinner. A unique way of encouraging folks to support the event sponsors was by offering “Jamboree Bucks.” Members of specific clubs could earn Jamboree Bucks for things like perfect attendance at club functions and then use them towards discounts on items from vendors. The vendors then redeem the bucks for cash from the organizers. As a vendor, I thought it was a great way to encourage people to support the companies who were donating money and prizes to the event as well as being a benefit to the riders.
After the ice cream social and a raffle for gift certificates and some smaller items donated by sponsors, it was lights out as I found someone who was gracious enough to let me tag along on the Barracks #2 ride Friday morning.
After another excellent breakfast by Sonny Boys BBQ and Catering, my new friend Cecil and I loaded up and caravanned with a dozen other vehicles out towards the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Although we didn’t actually make it to the dunes, our ride took us out around some amazing rock formations and up through some higher passes still laced with snow.
It’s really hard to capture all the beauty of the area in a photograph. The rock formations and multicolored buttes in the area as well as Zion National Park off in the distance are absolutely spectacular.
Our trail guide lead us to several scenic overlooks and we stopped for a lunch break at an area with a unique rock pathway outlined on the sandstone. Although no one had a bona fide answer as to where the path came from, the general consensus was that Native Americans had built it. Regardless of who put all those rocks in place, they sure had their work cut out for them!
Speaking of lunch, a local restaurant was taking orders every night and would deliver sack lunches each morning for the day's ride. A mere $6 got you a sandwich, chips, cookie, fruit and water. Hard to argue with that for the price or the convenience!
Probably the coolest feature of our specific ride was a rocky point overlooking the Virgin River. It’s hard to imagine finding water out there considering how dry everything is, but the huge rock formations and jagged cliffs making up the gorge were a site to behold. I certainly wasn’t the only one roaming around with a camera.
After the 45-mile ride and about an hour in the car, the amazing aroma of smoked brisket and pulled pork that greeted me at the fairgrounds was the perfect end to a great day of riding. Sonny Boys had prepared quite the spread of barbequed beef, chicken, pulled pork and a handful of sides.
Although Saturday is technically the last day of the Jamboree, most people head straight for home once they finish up their ride. That means Friday night is the big finale with the BBQ dinner and the bigger raffle prizes. Up for grabs this year were gas cans, ATV ramps, a few sets of tires, a Yamaha generator and even a trailer.
After dinner the mayor of Hurricane, who also happens to be an avid ATV enthusiast, invited a few guests on stage to talk about the status of the off-roading community in the state of Utah. TV personalities Chad Booth and Ria Rossi, from the outdoor show At Your Leisure, spoke in depth about the ongoing battle with legislators to keep riding areas open and the importance of working hand-in-hand with the city and Bureau of Land Management, as well as organizations like the Blue Ribbon Coalition who fight to protect our right to ride.
After a final breakfast on Saturday morning, attendees packed up and headed out for one last day of trail riding. I hung around until the event area was mostly cleared out, took down my display and headed for home.
You might say one day of riding was cutting myself short, but considering I was there for “work” I’d say I made out pretty well. The Tri-State ATV club is really committed to offering the best and most enjoyable experience to their attendees. It might seem silly to put a cap on the number of participants, but their philosophy of growing slowly has kept them alive and thriving for the last decade and I’m confident they’ll still be here doing the same thing in another 10 years.
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