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Gopher Dunes gears up for 'monster' Spring Mudfest

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The 25th anniversary of Gopher Dunes’ Spring 4×4 Mudfest is coming up on Good Friday, April 19, and it’s going to be true ‘monster’ mudfest.

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For the first time, Gopher Dunes will have two monster trucks on site.

“We want to make sure the crowd is as big as possible,” said Gopher Dunes’ Derek Schuster, looking forward to an event that has run consecutively every spring since April 14, 1995.

The two monster trucks – Train Wreck Monster and X-Treme Jim Monster Truck – will be running three times at the Good Friday Mudfest – 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. with 20-minute shows each time.

“It’s a good way to see something different, a good way to break up the Mudfest for fans,” said Schuster. “Some fans will be there for all three shows, but some fans plan it so they are only there part of the day… and try to make sure they are there for at least one of the three shows.”

With two monster trucks coming this year, Gopher Dunes, south of Courtland on Hwy 59, will be bringing in more cars to crush and adding a couple jumps.

“They’ll do a combination of crushing cars and jumping. And now that we have two, instead of one, they’ll have a little race competing against each other as well.”

Train Wreck and X-Treme Jim will have their own separate area at Mudfest – they will not be using the mud pits.

“They’re almost like really high-powered race vehicles, they’re not designed to go in mud. You can picture someone’s race car – the time and money. They would go through those pits super easy, but they are built really ‘open’ – all the parts are open. You’d be getting mud in the air breather, all that type of stuff, very easy.”

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With the introduction of monster trucks, Gopher Dunes’ Mudfest has added appeal to fans of all ages.

“The kids love the monster trucks and we noticed last year, bringing in one, that definitely brought in more youth,” said Schuster. “So we also have bouncy castles, face painting, ice cream truck – all that stuff. They all like watching the trucks go through the mud, but they like to do other stuff too.”

Admission is $15 adults, $10 for ages 5-13, and $5 for preschoolers.

Truck entries are $30 for drivers, and $15 for additional drivers of the same truck (seatbelts mandatory). Gates open at 7:30 a.m., and trucks register from 8-12 (capped at 500), with a mandatory driver meeting 11:15-11:30 a.m. Food and beverages are sold on site, and bleachers are added for fans.

The Mudfest, which begins at 11:30 a.m. features a series of mud pits, rockpiles and trails for trucks and jeeps to ‘run’, and concludes with an epic Bounty Pit at 4:30 p.m.

“We put up some money (for the Bounty Pit) and we’ll pick the biggest, best trucks that are there for the day, somewhere between six to 10 trucks. They just keep going through until one’s not stuck. The last one to not get stuck gets the bounty. It usually varies each spring. Last spring, I think, was $1,000. It’s kind of a ‘last man standing’ kind of thing and usually once that’s done, that’s when Mudfest ends. It’s a good way to finish it out.

“We’ve been doing the Bounty Pit a couple of years already and it’s gotten bigger and more popular each time. The first year, we started telling drivers we were going to do this at the end of the day, and if you don’t have me or my dad (Frank) or head staff come see you at some point through the day telling you to be there and what time, it means you weren’t chosen to do it.

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“The first time fans slowly started gathering to see what was happening. Now that we’ve done it probably five or six times (including the Fall Mudfest), you’ll see fans start to crowd around the Bounty Pit a good half hour before it starts to make sure they get a good viewing spot. Obviously when everyone’s around one pit it’s tough to see, so you see people piling in there early. And it’s cool because fans get into it more at that pit – they’re cheering and screaming for each truck to get through, hollering when someone gets stuck and has to be towed out.”

The bulk of the day, however, consists of truck/jeep owners – usually more than 500 of them – challenging whatever pits they want to navigate. Usually they have a shallow pit, typically with surface water, and several more difficult deeper and thicker mud pits. The degree of difficulty goes up through the day.

Going back 25 years, Spring Mudfest was first held on Good Friday – a long-time tradition in the area. Years later, after a cold snow-on-the-ground mudfest it was switched to late April. This year, with Easter on April 21, it was moved back to Good Friday.

“Some years Good Friday is in March and it just doesn’t work well,” said Schuster. “A lot of people say ‘we wish you still did it on Good Friday because it was such a tradition,’ so we figured if Good Friday falls in the second half of April, we’ll do it on Good Friday. If it’s not the second half of April, the Spring Mudfest is the last Sunday of April.

“Early April is still a little too risky. The trucks will come no matter what the weather, but we’d like to have that kids atmosphere and have them enjoy it. Obviously it’s not as enjoyable if it’s 3 degrees.”

You can find more Spring Mudfest information at the Gopher Dunes website, www.gopherdunes.com, or follow Gopher Dunes on social media.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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