New Venue. New Events. Same Offroad Fun.
What do you do when a pandemic is coming to an end and the weather reaches scorching temps for days upon days? You grab your riding buddies and blast through the mud on your SxS or ATV, of course. At least that was the case for the thousands of riders who descended upon the ERX Motor Park in Elk River, MN for the High Lifter Offroad Rally.
After missing last year due to the pandemic, the northern High Lifter Offroad Rally returned this past weekend in a new location. This year would mark the first rally at the welcoming ERX Motor Park. And from what the ERX ownership and crew presented as a venue, there is no doubt this will be a great new home for the event in the future.
ERX presented a sprawling landscape of varying riding opportunities. Wooded and open trails meandered throughout the park. These trails led riders to all sorts of terrain challenges. At one stop, daring riders could test their mudding skills by tackling a swampy mud pit. If they failed, there was almost always a group of willing onlookers with winches at the ready.
Just down from the swamp crossing riders found dug out pits filled with water. At the water, you saw a mix of riding styles. Some skilled and bold riders could be seen trying their hand at skimming across the surface. A slower paced crawl and/or float through the deeper parts could also be seen. This area proved to be a popular gathering area for riders to cool off throughout the event as every day saw plus-90-degree weather. A sandy swimming beach was constructed nearby for even more reprieve from the heat. It also provided a chance to quickly rinse the mud and dust off yourself.
Other terrains across the park included gravel pits and manmade dirt piles. There truly was a great mix of riding packed into the ERX Motor Park, which provided something for everyone.
Camping at the rally was spread out through the park, providing the riders a chance to set up where they wanted. Accommodations were varied. Everything from top-of-the-line motorhomes and campers to tents and everything in-between was seen in camping areas. You didn’t see many people around there though as they were mainly used as pit stops during the rally. Riding, watching events and live music took up most of their time.
Riding and camping are only part of the rally. High Lifter does a great job of packing a schedule full of great offroad events and entertainment. That schedule provided something different and unique every day of the four-day rally. Rally-goers would drop what they were doing and gather around on their machines to either watch or participate in each event.
The first day of the rally saw eager riders showing up soon after the gates were opened in the early morning. Not long after, the first side by sides and quads were rolling through the park. Vendor Village opened in the morning as well to greet the first rally-goers. Here, vendors showed off their latest and greatest merchandise and had great options for all riders. As the official parts sponsor, Dennis Kirk manned a booth loaded with great parts and accessories. High Lifter showcased many of their parts and accessories as well. Throughout each day of the rally, Vendor Village hosted events for everyone to participate in. These included Musical Chairs, a Bags tourney, meet and greets, and more.
A scavenger hunt helped get riders out on and acquainted with the trails during the first day. Later in the afternoon came the Mean Machine competition, which was an opportunity for ATV and UTV builders to showcase their skills and talent. The event saw fully modded machines that included extreme lift kits, custom graphics, light kits, snorkels, full audio systems and more. First, second, and third places were chosen by guest judges and a fan favorite was also crowned.
The second day saw more riders show up all throughout the day. They could be seen setting up camp, exploring the trails and features, and walking through Vendor Village. The main motor event of the day was the Drag Racing. With several engine size classes for both ATVs and UTVs, there was something for anyone who wanted to put their machine on the drag strip.
Friday saw everything get ramped up. The line at the gate was steady as more and more riders showed up to the rally. Camping areas filled up as the influx of riders continued. With maps posted around the park, you could see riders pull up, take a peek and go explore everything offered to them.
The events of the day were double stacked with exciting action. First up was the obstacle course. The course threw a multitude of challenges at the riders. First out of the gate, drivers navigated a series of short mud pits. Next, they had to power over a mound of tires and then over a pair of smashed cars. A log obstacle proved difficult and damn near impossible to clear. Another mud pit awaited right before the finish line. Spectators gathered for the action by parking their machines around the course on a hill, which provided an excellent vantage point.
Later in the afternoon came a fan favorite. The Bounty Hole represents what the High Lifter rallies were built around. These deep and challenging mud pits require exceptional driving skills and a lifted machine with the power capable of keeping the wheels turning without losing momentum. Many of the machines that conquered the Bounty Hole were the same that were able to make it through the obstacle course. On the other hand, the Bounty Hole claimed victory over quite a few machines and riders as well. With every attempt, the crowd would cheer on the competitor, whether they failed or conquered.
With the motor events of the day finished, rally goers dispersed throughout the park. Some made their way back to their camps or to the food vendors to refill their own gas tanks. Others, inspired by the bounty hole made their way to the mud holes and water pits to put their machines to the test. Many gathered around as riders took their turn. The night came to a close with live music. Country artist Matt Farris put on a hell of a show with riders perched on their machines, sipping cool beverages, and of course, cutting up some turf with their dance moves. The party went on late into the night, even after the music stopped.
The final day of the event started a little later than normal for some of the riders that kept the party going late. They woke to the tune of exhausts ripping by those who managed to wake themselves for some early riding. The first event of the day was the Sled Pull. Sled pulls are a big deal with tractors and trucks, but today’s ATVs and UTVs have the torque and power to do some mighty pulls as well. Some impressive distances were achieved in this event.
In the afternoon, the final event of the rally would prove to be the most adrenaline inducing. The Freestyle Show presented high flying action with stunt riders on ATVs, side by sides, dirt bikes, and BMX bikes. The show was put on by the ATV Big Air Tour and it did not disappoint. Among the crew was Derek Guetter who is releasing his latest film “Butter 2: Four Wheel Flavored” on June 22nd. The action filled performance was a great way to end the motorized events on a high note.
The rally ended with more live music, just like every night before. The music and party was a great way to bring an awesome long weekend to a close. For being the first time at ERX Motor Park and for coming out of a pandemic, the High Lifter Offroad Rally showed out. People from all around the region gathered in this great location and celebrated this awesome lifestyle we all enjoy. With the sales of new UTVs skyrocketing, this is event is sure to grow even more in the future. Everyone who loves riding and the culture that surrounds it need to add this rally to their bucket list.