Jericho ATV Festival Draws Thousands to Enjoy Mud and Fun

August 4, 2014

By Barbara Tetreault
Berlin Daily Sun

BERLIN By the thousands, ATV riders got blessed, drove through the mud, wrecked their dresses, listened to music, and enjoyed the miles of trails in the Androscoggin Valley at the 5th annual Jericho ATV Festival this past weekend.  Yesterday, organizers were still slightly frazzled as they sought to unwind amid ringing phones and a slew of e-mails.

Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Coordinator Paula Kinney said about 4,000 people attended the festival events at Jericho Mountain State Park. Sylvia Poulin of the Berlin Main Street Program estimated there were about 2,000 riders at the Downtown Block Party on Friday night and 700 people took in the Family Music Festival at the Notre Dame Arena Saturday night. Those figures do not count the riders who came simply to ride on the hundreds of miles of ATV trails and did not go to the festival grounds.

"We are very very excited about the turnout," said Kinney.  She said the chamber, which sponsors the festival with the Androscoggin ATV Club, has received a lot of kudos and many people are already talking about next year's event.  "They already want to come back," she said.

Kinney said the big hit again was the mud pit. Revamped for the festival with a 'secret recipe' for mud, Kinney said hundreds watched as driver after driver maneuvered their ATV through the soupy mix. At times the mud splashed onto spectators and even a local newspaper reporter was not immune from the mud.

The first into the pit were Rev. Kyle Stanton and the Rev. Andrew Nelson, the pastor and assistant pastor of the Good Shepherd and Holy Family Parishes in Berlin and Gorham. Rev. Nelson had asked parishioners to pray for his victory and, helped by a more powerful engine, his prayers were answered. The two priests had opened Saturday's events with a Blessing of the ATVs.

Six contestants competed in the 'Wreck the Dress' competition, which turned out to be a co-ed event this year.  If the mud pit was the favorite, the Rave X Freestyle Show awed the crowd. The stunt show out of Maine featured a dirt bike and quad rider performing stunts at least 20 feet in the air and touching down on a steel mobile landing. Bob Chapman of Chapman Scrap Metal Recycling sponsored the show and it drew large enthusiastic crowds.

Arctic Cat, Can-Am, Yamaha and Polaris were all there to show off their latest models and offer demo rides.  Friday night featured an old-fashioned block party on Main Street Berlin and Poulin said it was wonderful to see people walking around the downtown on a Friday night. She said the AVT riders appreciated that the downtown was open only to the off-highway vehicles.  "People had a great time. It was a great community event," Poulin said.

She said the idea was to showcase the downtown and get visitors to see what Main Street Berlin has to offer. Restaurants in the downtown served a variety of food and Poulin reported all were busy. There was live music and a beer tent to add to the festive mood. Illuminated by glow lights, the ATVs lined up at 9 p.m. for a torchlight parade through the downtown.

N.H. Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache said the festival attracted ATV enthusiasts from all over New England with some coming from New Jersey and New York. He said restaurants and hotels were busy through the valley. He said there was an increase in vendors at the park, which in turn provided more things for riders to see and do. Gamache reported no problems with the festival other than a shortage of parking space for ATVs at the park. The chamber had arranged for parking outside the park with shuttles to Jericho but parking got tight for those who wanted to drive their ATVs to the festival.

Gamache said he hopes to meet with the chamber and ATV club to work on a five years plan to improve the festival grounds. Kinney said volunteers and Romik Developers did a lot of work this summer preparing the mud pit and landscaping the festival area.  Harry Brown, head of the North Country OHRV and the guiding force behind the 'Ride the Wilds' initiative to connect 1,000 miles of trails in Coos County, called the festival an awesome event and a great example of networking.

"I think it's a really good example of people working together in a non-profit venture for the economic benefit of the area," he said.

The Rave X Freestyle Group (an ATV and a dirt bike) performed three shows to captivated
crowds at the 5th Annual Jericho ATV Festival. (Barabara Tetreault Photo).

Six brides and a groom participated in the Wreck the Dress mud races. (Barbara Tetreault photo).

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