Story By: Keith Hook
Photos By: Kyle Wells & Jason Zindroski
Just about anyone in the UTV industry would concur that 2021 has been a wild roller coaster ride. So wild that it could only compare to riding passenger with (just imagine) RJ Anderson running the Dakar Rally, Baja 1000, and King of the Hammers all combined into one race—with the throttle stuck wide open. Yeah, definitely that kind of year.
Apparently for us that just wasn’t enough, we once again took hosting duties alongside event mastermind and long-time friend, Rich Klein, for another Trail Hero event. The Sand Hollow based rally has historically been about jeeps and buggies, but when UTVs really started to explode, we jumped at the chance to add in the SXS Rally portion of the event. Which would take it to a level we never expected…
As the only motorsports / powersports combined organized rally event in the US, it would gain the attention of enthusiasts of all flavors. This year’s event brought over 33,000 people from all 50 states and 6 countries, so it’s safe to say it also got wilder-er-er.
This year we saw incredible support from very serious brands, and not just checks in the mail, but full displays and teams onsite to participate and engage. The event has always been known to be a very hands on occasion, everyone is someone, and no rider is any different than the next. Support staff and volunteer skills are unmatched, along with the commitment that they all bring.
Leading up to the event, we knew from the very beginning it was different than years past. We were over-the-top once we had word that Monster Energy would be taking on full Title Sponsor position, and again, not just a check in the mailbox. They were very clear they wanted to bring the party, and they did just that. The entire week’s schedule was packed with entertainment at every turn, from concerts and special guests, to DJs and exhibition racing. There was certainly never a dull moment.
Even Mother Nature wanted to chime in, making a special appearance, not once but twice! On Sunday, a day earlier than normal, the gates opened up. Normally all is fairly quiet on day zero, but not this year. Trucks and trailers were lined up to get in and get that sought after spot, campsite, or simply be there to help. It was busier this year before the event even started than last year mid week.
Monday brought us truly amazing southern Utah weather. An incredible day for vendor setup, trail preparations, the charity golf tournament and the infamous Opening Ceremonies, where the who’s who of the industry would prime themselves for the week ahead. All was well, not knowing it would be the calm before the storm.
Tuesday morning set off the first trail riders, the vendor area would open up, and dust would fly. Athletes, ambassadors, and personalities from across the entire off-road community would fire up engines and cameras alike to experience just what Trail Hero was all about. It was going to be a good day.
As trail riders started to return in the early afternoon, the skies grew dark, massive rain clouds appeared over the southeastern ridges in the distance. In no time at all, the winds howled, thunder and lightning surrounded Sand Hollow, and the rain would fall in buckets. It was a desert storm that would wreak havoc across Washington County for hours and have people running for shelter, or so you would think.
The horizons cleared just in time for sunset, and those that did hide would resurface, not just to rejoice but to begin restoration. Even late into the night, volunteers and participants lent a hand to get the grounds back on track. The community stepped in, and by Wednesday morning it was like nothing had happened.
Jeeps and UTVs alike staged for the day’s trails—the activities and entertainment schedule was in full swing. The crews of High Lifter Events were on site all week, and the crew practically made sure every grain of sand was in place. Not only were they the SXS Rally Presenting Sponsor, but the masters of fun-having good times were also the Vendor Area Sponsor. Mission accomplished! They hosted some incredible activities throughout the week and brought serious attention to what a good vendor show is all about.
And then Mother Nature decided she wasn’t done just yet…
On Friday, Trail Hero was hosting the inaugural International Off-Road Day with Can-Am and its slew of ambassadors from across the continent. A momentous day that would be remembered forever, which it will be, as one of the wettest rides of all time! The skies really never cleared, the entire day would be filled with low clouds, rain, waterfalls, and some seriously slick rock rides. Guided trail rides continued on with the attitude of a little water never hurt anyone, making for some incredible efforts and moments caught on film. It was incredible to see the vigor in everyone to ride in less-than-ideal situations, perseverance to move along the trail, and love every single minute of it. A true testament to exactly what Off-Road Day really meant, we’re out here doing what we do, because we live for it, no matter what!
That evening’s weather finally allowed for the make-shift ponchos to come off, and let the regularly scheduled program take place. Participants dried off and gathered for a slightly shortened version of the Trail Breaker event on the mountain and the brand new Rock-X Exhibition Race on the beach, which simply teased the idea of having some names from various racing avenues to take to a short crowd-pleasing course to sling some horsepower around in the sand. This year was a test, and I think it most certainly passed… We will definitely bring more to this event next year, in a big way. The fun went late into the night with music and bonfires, and stories from the trail like you would expect.
As the sun broke on Saturday morning, it brought some epic weather for the busiest day of the week. People gathered themselves and arose from throughout the grounds in anticipation of the joy that the jam-packed schedule had in store for them. The vendor area had been filled all week, but today it would burst at the seams. The area was alive with family-friendly activities, giveaways, raffles, scavenger hunts, and contests. This was an opportunity to meet and greet with everyone that made this week possible and share the memories we made. We were family, we were Trail Heroes.
Each and every year we look forward to hosting our friends and off-road family. It’s a lot of work, but in the end, it’s worth every bead of sweat. We enjoy doing what we love with those that genuinely love this sport. It’s a way of life in one of the greatest playgrounds America has to offer. So thankful for each and every person that allowed us to be a part of their life that week. This year was the most memorable event for me personally and professionally, I wouldn’t have changed a thing…. No, not even the rain!