BERLIN - The question of "Got Mud?" was answered often and emphatically in the affirmative Saturday during the fifth annual Jericho ATV Festival, which attracted thousands of riders, as well as four of the leading vehicle manufacturers, to this city in the heart of the North Country.
Held at Jericho Mountain State Park, which the state of New Hampshire purchased and has developed primarily as a playground for motorized vehicles, the festival celebrates the family-oriented ATV lifestyle and the fact that Berlin is part of the 1,000 miles of interconnected trails know as Ride the Wilds.
Started in 2010 by the Androscoggin ATV Club, the festival grew so rapidly that the club had to seek a partnership with the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce, which now considers the festival a signature annual event, according to Paula Kinney, the chamber's executive coordinator.
The 2014 festival featured a "secret recipe" for mud, said Kinney, and because of its popularity, an extension from two days to three. The festival began Friday and culminates today.
Kinney said she and fellow organizers were expecting 5,000 visitors, many to try out the mud pit and as many to take complimentary demo rides on ATV's from Arctic Cat, Can-Am, Yamaha and Polaris.
Jason Dufficia, who is the senior marketer for Polaris off-road vehicles, said he and his company were thrilled to make their inaugural trip to the Jericho ATV Festival.
"We are loving it here," said Dufficia, who added that he's ridden an ATV in just about every state in the U.S. and that the trail system and venue at JMSP was "easily within the Top Five."
Sue Rugg, the NH Fish and Game Department's off-highway recreational-vehicle safety coordinator for Coos County, said her agency has attended the festival since it began, adding "We've just seen it grow and grow and always in a positive way."
"This year," she said, "with the vendors and manufacturers here, it's huge."
Rugg said she met visitors from all over New England, and even from as far from as Pennsylvania. The common refrain from the visitors was marked by compliments about the JMSP facility and the friendliness of festival staff and of local residents, said Rugg.
Saturday's festival festivities began with a blessing of the ATVs by the Rev. Kyle Stanton and the Rev. Andrew Nelson, who are, respectively, the pastor and assistant pastor of the Good Shepherd and Holy Family Parishes in Berlin and Gorham.
A beginning rider, Stanton took on Nelson in a mud-pit duel, pointing out that if he lost, it was because "Father Andrew has a lot of experience." He was right.
Nelson won the mud run, albeit, by a close margin.