Halloween is the official kick-off for our riding season. Forget jack-o-lanterns—the end of October has evolved into a large celebration in the off-road community. Every year, ever-increasing crowds gather at places like Dumont Dunes, Glamis, and San Mountain to celebrate. People dress up in costume and decorate their RVs and UTVs. The kids trick-or-treat from RV to RV. There are evening parades. It is a fun time for off-roaders of all ages.
Tucked in California’s Coastal Range just east of Patterson, Frank Raines OHV Park is a place where offroaders have celebrated Halloween for decades. The park sits on Del Puerto Canyon Road off of Highway 5. For over 30 years, on the weekend before Halloween, the CORVA Northern Jamboree has run there.
The East Bay Hi-Tailers, the Escarabajo Buggy Club, Friends of Frank Raines, the Merced Runabouts, the Modesto Ridge Runners, and the RC Rock Crawlers sponsored the event in 2021. Each club hosted a part of the weekend. All proceeds, as always, were donated to CORVA.
CORVA does an important job in the state of California. For over 50 years, it’s been on the front line, helping to preserve the use of our public lands. CORVA also has several other major fundraisers throughout the year, including a large event in Truckhaven in January. If you are interested in learning more, making a donation or becoming a member, go to www.corva.org.
The Jamboree’s main events run on Saturday. We show up on Friday because most of the club members and volunteers are already there, laying out the route for the participants. Registration is open so we can check in before the crowd. There is bingo in the clubhouse Friday evening, where proceeds go to CORVA. Participants are also busy decorating their RVs and campsites for the festive Halloween weekend.
We spend Friday night meandering the RV park, hopping from one campfire to the next. We meet new people, and catch up with old friends, talking about all of the places we have visited throughout the year. We enjoy hearing everyone’s funny trail stories; they get bigger and bigger each time they’re told.
It’s not all fireside chats and bingo, though; the weekend has fun, offbeat events that run at a far calmer pace than the adrenaline-filled racing that so much of the offroad scene focuses on. One of my favorites is the Egg Carry, where the driver navigates a short, bumpy course while the passenger holds an egg in a spoon outside of the vehicle until they reach the finish line. The participant that makes it across the finish line with an unbroken egg and the fastest time takes first place in their class.
Another one of my favorites is the Blind Man’s Bluff. In this event, the driver is blindfolded and the passenger has to talk the driver through a course with obstacles. It is a complete riot to try, and even more of a riot to watch. The team with the fastest time takes the first place ribbon.
We always have fun at the Pumpkin Carry, too. This event is one of the longest, because each vehicle has to drive the course twice. During the first pass, the driver quickly navigates to about six different poles that have plastic pumpkins dangling from them. The driver removes the pumpkins from the poles one by one. After the first lap, the vehicle is full of plastic pumpkins. During the second pass, the passenger has to put the pumpkins back on the poles. All of this needs to be accomplished as fast as possible without dropping any pumpkins or hitting any poles. The team with the fastest time and no penalties wins first place.
Other events include the Barrel Races and the Wiggle Worm, where participants navigate their cars around barrels or cones as quickly as possible without hitting them.
The RC Rock Crawlers club put on a new event this year, based around a very intricate miniature RC car track. The goal of the event was to drive an RC car through the course making the fastest time. The club did an amazing job constructing a track with logs, rock obstacles, and a hill climb that was fun to navigate.
The events shut down at 3:00 p.m., giving participants time to clean up. The kids put on their Halloween costumes. At 4:00 p.m., trick-or-treating begins in the campground.
At 5:00, there’s a $10 dinner in the clubhouse. This year, the dinner was sponsored by the Modesto Ridge Runners. They expertly barbecued a delicious meal. The menu was savory chicken, beans, a salad, bread, and cake for dessert. The meal really hit the spot after a long fun day.
There is always an awards ceremony after dinner, with medals for the winners of the day’s events. Afterwards, the clubs put on a raffle with lots of great prizes and a 50/50 raffle that nets hundreds of dollars to CORVA. There is also a raffle to win an off-road themed hand-made quilt.
Next on the evening agenda, there’s a very competitive costume contest, with categories for individual, couple, and group costumes; a panel of judges hands out the prizes When that’s over, there is a DJ available for those who like to get their groove on.
Camping reservations for Frank Raines OHV Park can be made by going to www.stancountyparks.com. If you have any questions about the area or need a rescue out of Frank Raines, contact Bill Daniel, founder of the Friends of Frank Raines. He is local and is extremely knowledgeable about the park, its history and geology. He can be reached through the Friends of Frank Raines FB Page. Give it a “like” at https://www.facebook.com/Friends-of-Frank-Raines-Park-441565856175661.
If you’re looking for a new place to celebrate Halloween weekend that is safe, easy on the pocketbook, and tons of fun, The Northern California CORVA Jamboree is the perfect event. Like their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Northern-Jamboree-171981836222971 to stay updated. It is sure to be family fun for everyone.