BERLIN — Expected to draw upward of 8,000 attendees, the largest ATV event in the Northeast returns this Friday and Saturday as organizers mark its 10th anniversary with a variety of family-oriented activities.
The festival, both a partnership of the Androscoggin Valley ATV Club and the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce as well as an important fundraiser for each, will be held daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Jericho Mountain State Park on Route 110. The action then shifts each afternoon to the city proper, from 5 to 9 p.m.
There will be mud races, an obstacle course, helicopter rides, the ATV Big Air Freestyle Show, Kid’s Fun Zone (where youngsters will be able to operate a battery-powered ATV through a reduced-scale mud pit) and free demo rides.
The festival ends with a bang Saturday night at Heritage Riverside Park as JPI Pyrotechnics lights up the Androscoggin River with a fireworks display.
On Sunday, Stephen Clorite, president of the AV ATV Club, and Paula Kinney, executive director of the AV Chamber, were both at Jericho Mountain helping prepare for the festival.
The festival is a big deal for the ATV industry and community, they said, with five manufacturers — Arctic Cat, Can-Am, Honda, Hisun and Polaris — all bringing their latest models for demo rides.
Honda is coming for the first time, said Kinney, while Can-Am is coming for its 10th, having supported the festival from the beginning.
Should you find a ride you like, representatives for three banks will be at the festival to help secure financing. There will also be 43 vendors, including 11 selling food.
“The grounds are full,” said Kinney, “we can’t fit any more vendors.” She added, “the vendors we used to chase are chasing us now.”
ATVs are big business in the North Country, Clorite said. Jericho Mountain State Park, where his club maintains 65 miles of trails, and nearby Success, where it has 20 more miles, both link to the regional Ride The Wilds trail system.
A consortium of clubs, Ride The Wilds offers around 1,000 miles of interconnected trails that can be accessed at various points between Gorham and Pittsburg.
Since Ride The Wilds began operating in 2013, the state has seen a seasonal spike in the meals and rooms tax from hotels and restaurants in the North Country, said Clorite.
“I live here,” said Kinney, “and never in a million years did I think that people would be buying second homes in Berlin and retiring here” to be near ATV trails.
Jack Wood and Lauren Cosgrove fit that profile. Both longtime ATV aficionados, the couple has been coming up from Woburn, Mass., to the North Country to ride at least twice a month for the past several years. Recently, Wood took a job in the Berlin area. He said a big factor in his decision was his and Cosgrove’s proximity to Jericho Mountain and Ride The Wilds.
“We started coming up with the ATVs and then we fell in love with the place,” said Cosgrove, a pediatric nurse.
Wood, who works in sales, has even joined American Legion Post 82 in Gorham.
“Everybody’s really friendly,” said Wood.
He and Cosgrove expect to move up north in the next few weeks and will begin the process of buying a home.
Clorite said hotels and motels within a 90-minute radius of Jericho Mountain are reporting few, if any, vacancies.
That said, however, day visitors are welcome and can take advantage of an extensive network of parking lots and shuttle buses to get them to Jericho Mountain, he said. The parking and the buses are free, but there is an admission fee to enter the Jericho Mountain venue.
On Friday night in downtown Berlin, Honda will host a block party at the end of which, the Caron Building and Rental Center will hold an ATV torch-lit parade up Main Street.
On Saturday at Heritage Park, singer Tim Dion will get the music going and will be followed on the stage at 7 p.m. by the band 8084, which has previously performed with such international acts as Aldo Nova, Toto, April Wine, Warrant, Edgar Winter, and Blue Oyster Cult.