By Cody Hooper
You wouldn’t believe it driving up Highway 20 through Rigby, Idaho, but there is a dune paradise nestled tightly between a lake, some farms, and a giant mountain of lava rock. We couldn’t believe it ourselves the first time we came to Idaho’s St. Anthony riding area four short years ago for the first UTV Invasion event.
Even your first venture into the sand will still keep most skeptical about the “Big Dunes” talk, as the first trails of sand are small, rocky, and at times, not very smooth. The crazy thing is, the further back you go, the bigger the dunes get. We aren’t talking Glamis big, these are on a whole different level- standing at the bottom of Devil’s Dune and watching a big V8-powered sand car rail around the rim of the bowl in its highest gear is a sight you have to see at least once. With 10,600 acres of open sand area to explore, you’re guaranteed not to get bored on a week-long trip here.
Every year around Labor Day weekend in September, Fullerton Sand Sports and Idaho Dunes RV Resort build a mini tent city in the fields of the camping area. This mass gathering sees vendors and duners from around the country come together for nearly a week of fun-filled activities, games, concerts, giveaways, and group rides. This year, in its fourth iteration, the event was at its largest yet.
This year, the event started Thursday, August 31st. We arrived the Saturday night prior to get set up and have a little dune time to play with our new builds, the TMW Offroad-built XP4 Turbo, SDR Motorsports-built YXZ1000R, and our newest Maverick X3 X rs. The dunes were fresh, and the campgrounds were completely empty.
As the vendors began to arrive, the campground and vendor row area began to take shape. Lorin and Karina Morrell were in charge of the vendor area setup, and they did a fantastic job of laying out the booth sizes and locations in preparation for the fencing and tents that would show up Thursday morning. Shawn O’Hara and John Kuskie handled the wiring and power hookups, building custom power stations for each vendor area. We were on fence line and camera duty, taking time to snap photos and video in between drilling and pounding fence posts into the lava rock-laden campground basin. Dave and Tami Kuskie of Fullerton Sand Sports ran the show, with Fullerton’s Cole Farrell handling the emcee duties. The media teams on-hand included UTV Guide, In2Dirt Media, UTV Bulletin, UTV Sports, and Dirtwheels. Off-Road.com and ATV.com also had representatives on hand to capture photo and video of the spectacular event.
The UTV Invasion is a culmination of efforts that bridges many gaps in the industry every year. It’s a peaceful, fun family event that brings a huge following of loyal dune fans- despite the 20+ hour drive for some attendees, UTV Invasion sees patrons coming back every year for more. From 10 am on Thursday the 31st to 5 pm on Sunday, September 3rd, duners and industry partners alike stood shoulder-to-shoulder in some of the most entertaining contests and raffles we have been a part of.
Can-Am showed up in style with two massive semi trucks full of Maverick X3 demo units. We were lucky enough to be part of a media briefing on the first day, getting some seat time in the new sub-$20k 120 horsepower Maverick X3 and the big, 172 horsepower Maverick X3 Xrs. We had an absolute blast in both machines, and will be posting test stories in the near future.
Boondocker was the title sponsor of the event this year, showing up in full force with a ton of UTVS, merchandise, and two brand new Ford Raptor trucks with huge paddles bolted on. The Boondocker crew put in a lot of dune and drag time over the long weekend, and were helping customers install and tune parts over the course of the event.
Vendor row was jam-packed with awesome displays and merchandise. After hours, most of the cars that were parked all day in vendor row could be found cruising around the dunes or posted up at the bottom of Thunder Mountain watching cars race up and down the hill. It’s nice to see the “show cars” that litter the booths out in the dunes and being driven hard- there aren’t many industries you can see that type of thing in anymore!
Invasion events Thursday and Friday included the infamous “Teeter Totter”, wherein participants must drive their UTV up onto a set of balanced ramps and attempt to balance with both sides off the ground. It’s an incredibly skill-heavy event that takes a lot of practice, and last year’s winner Steve Watson showed up to defend his title. After a very close fight, it was Watson who once again walked away the Teeter Totter champ. Practice took place on Thursday, with the final event happening Friday afternoon.
A total of eight group rides and a poker run were also featured in this year’s events, with both day and night rides taking place and being led in different advertised skill levels. Friday morning, there was a sponsored pancake breakfast courtesy of Fullerton Sand Sports before vendor row opened. Can-Am demos were running all weekend, with droves of people stepping up to test drive new Can-Am Maverick X3s out in the killer St. Anthony dunescape.
New this year, a kids’ playground area and kid-only raffles took place, offering some fun for the little ones while Mom and Dad got to shop. Everything from RC Cars to 5 lb gummy bears were given away at the kids raffle, although it was hard to get them out of the bounce houses to attend! Friday evening, a local band called Stiff Richard put on a rockin’ concert, playing old hits from AC/DC, Zeppelin, and more.
Saturday included even more raffles, demo rides, and group rides, with the Show N Shine sponsored by Wolf Designs taking place at 4 pm. Dozens of cars showed up to take a run at the Best in Show title, with top honors going to a gorgeous copper-metallic colored RZR XP Turbo. Another set of daily prize drawings preceded a 6:30 pm concert by another local band, “The Voltz”. After the show, Buggy Whip Inc led a “Lit in the USA” night ride.
Sunday was the event closer, including more Can-Am Demos, a Chapel Service, and the Poker Run held by Fullerton Sand Sports. Closing the event out was a huge benefit raffle for Montana native Trevon McCuen, a young avid dune rider who is facing an extremely rare form of cancer. We got the chance to spend some time with Trevon and his family, who are class acts and very caring people. Trevon and his crew are multi-time UTV Invasion participants, and they were on hand selling hats and t shirts to raise money for Trevon’s medical expenses as he continues his treatments in search of a cure. The heartfelt story was touching and genuine. The highlight of the weekend for Trevon had to be getting an E-ticket ride in the shotgun seat of NASCAR Racer Greg Biffle’s custom Pace Offroad Z1 powered RZR during the celebrity group ride! Greg and his crew were on hand all weekend, hanging out, racing, and talking shop with other UTV owners.
If you’ve yet to make it out to a UTV Invasion event, we highly suggest you do so. It’s a small enough event to still feel authentic and family-run. The event coordinators are dune people, driven to do this by their simple love for getting other riders together for a good time. We will continue supporting this event as it continues, so we hope to see you.
UTV Invasion Vendor Spotlight Videos:
Past Event Coverage:
- 2014 Idaho Dunes UTV Invasion/a>
- 2015 UTV Invasion at the Idaho Dunes
- 2016 UTV Invasion at the Idaho Dunes
About UTV Invasion Powered by Boondocker
UTV Invasion is a leading UTV and offroad event held annually at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes in St. Anthony Idaho. In addition to 10,000 acres of open dune riding, the event includes a concert, show’n shine, guided rides, industry celebrity appearances, UTV Teeter Totter and more. The event takes place at Idaho Dunes RV Resort every Labor Day weekend. More details can be found at: www.utvinvasion.com