Photo: 211230-news-atvfestivalreturns

Joined by Paula Kinney, executive director of the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Luksza and his Great Dane “Nobie” pose for a photo on Wednesday in Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin in the area of where “monster trucks” will compete during the 2022 Jericho ATV Festival. 

BERLIN — Leon Michaud doesn’t ride an all-terrain vehicle, but he likes that the Jericho ATV Festival – billed as the largest event of its kind on the East Coast — is returning next summer after a two-year hiatus.

“I think it (the ATV festival) is bringing in a lot of money. We need money” in the Androscoggin River Valley, said Michaud, 80, during a pause in his walk last week at Jericho Mountain State Park. The park had hosted all 10 of the previous Jericho ATV festivals.

A Berlin native and retired hydro operator, Michaud said festival attendees “buy gas, buy food,” and pump significant money into the local economy.

He said Jericho Mountain State Park – which the state built to delight motorized-sports enthusiasts – “is an absolute godsend up here,” adding that it’ll be great to see the park packed next Aug. 5-6 for the ATV festival.

The would-be 2022 festival has a nuanced backstory.

The festival began as a co-production of the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Androscoggin Valley ATV Club, but in early 2021 the groups parted ways, forcing the cancellation of this year’s festival, a year after COVID-19 safety concerns canceled the 2020 gathering.

However, the club, working with Bruce and Craig Luksza, the father/son co-owners of the Jericho Gateway Family Campground, which is about a mile west of Jericho Mountain, came up with a “plan B” event at the campground: the Androscoggin Valley ATV Invasion.

Scheduled for July 30 and 31, the ATV Invasion was also canceled, not because of COVID-19, but because the club was unable to obtain adequate insurance and because drought conditions prevented a proper setup of courses.

As both the 2021 Jericho ATV Festival and Androscoggin Valley ATV Invasion went by the boards, Bruce Luksza noticed that something equally valuable was at stake: the legal right to the name “Jericho ATV Festival LLC.”

With the dissolution of the partnership between the chamber of commerce and the Androscoggin Valley ATV Club, the name was up for grabs, Chamber Director Paula Kinney said Wednesday, and could have been registered by anyone with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office and used anywhere in the U.S.

But Luksza, a Manchester native and now Chichester resident who went to his first and only Jericho ATV Festival in 2019 and immediately decided to set down business roots, registered the name instead, explaining Wednesday that “I really felt the festival belongs here.”

Overwhelmed by the logistics of operating the festival himself, Luksza turned to the chamber, whose board of directors in November voted unanimously to put on the 2022 festival, said Kinney.

Luksza will get nothing financially from the transaction, she said, while the chamber will get to use the name for free and receive all revenues generated by it to promote the region.

As to the possibility of a 2023 Jericho ATV Festival, Luksza said “we’ll see” while Kinney was optimistic that there’d be many more festivals in the future, all thanks to Luksza.

“We (the chamber) had no intention of doing another ATV festival until Bruce picked this up,” said Kinney.

According to Kinney, between 5,000 and 8.000 visitors are expected to come to the 2022 Jericho ATV Festival.