The Idaho Dunes UTV Invasion powered by Boondocker held annually in St Anthony Idaho over Labor Day weekend keeps getting bigger and better and this years event did not disappoint. In just its third year, the UTV Invasion nearly doubled in size, completely selling out Idaho Dunes RV resort weeks in advance.
Attendees began trickling in for the long weekend as early as Tuesday though the official event kicked off on Thursday morning with a few prize giveaways and the singing of the national anthem by local country artist Clint King. A packed house meant thousands of enthusiasts would be on hand and thanks to Rugged Radios, everyone would enjoy free admission to vendor row, the concert and a host of activities taking place over the course of the weekend.
Probably the biggest news for this years event was the addition of the Can-Am demo tour and the opportunity for attendees to demo the all new Can-Am Maverick X3. The four X3s on site literally ran all day every day from Thursday morning through Sunday as attendees were eager to try out the new king of the sport UTV class. Having an OEM presence certainly legitimizes the event and we expect to see other manufacturers jumping on board in the years to come, especially if the event continues to experience the same level of growth year after year.
Can-Am arranged a slightly longer demo ride for the media on Thursday morning and although it wasnt an all out test, it provided enough time to snap a few pictures and make a few laps around the demo course (see Can-Am Maverick X3 Dune Review). While we appreciate the opportunity to get behind the wheel, we are certainly looking forward to a more thorough opportunity to put the machine through its paces in the near future.
With most of the activities taking place Friday and Saturday, Thursday provided a great opportunity to get out into the sand and enjoy riding the massive dunes that make St. Anthony so famous. On this trip we brought our Polaris GENERAL 1000 and ourSDR built RZR XP 4 Turbo, the perfect machine for scaling tall dunes and carving massive bowls like Devils Dune. The long wheelbase coupled with long travel suspension makes transitioning out of bowls much more controllable and super fun.
Friday morning kicked off with a free pancake breakfast sponsored by Camp Fireball and Fullerton Sand Sports. You dont have to twist our arm too hard when it comes to free food but pancakes and bacon is the perfect way to fuel up for a day of duning if you ask us. Before the days events got underway we took the General 1000 out for a cruise through some of the smaller dunes. Although its a little top heavy and not exactly built for the dunes, slap a set of sand tires on it and the General will take you most anywhere you want to go.
Drag racing has never been a part of the UTV Invasion but for this year, Boondocker Performance, Evolution Powersports, Ignite Racing Fuels and K&T Turbo partnered up to put on a drag racing exhibition and Matt Ling of NSX Designs setup and operated the tree all weekend long to give spectators a taste of what high horsepower UTV drag racing is all about. The course was uniquely set in the corner of a field next to the dunes and just days prior to the event, was literally covered in sage brush. After clearing the majority of the course, spectators actually jumped in to help pick up loose debris and give racers as smooth of a lane as possible. Despite severely dusty conditions, the big boys of the drag world put on a great show and we imagine drag racing will become a mainstay event here at the UTV invasion in the future.
Friday afternoon we hooked up with the crew from TMW Offroad and their fleet of immaculate machines for some photos and that proved to be quite an eventful photo op. All of their cars photograph well but Clint Ellsworth demonstrated the full capabilities of his XP 4 Turbo, roosting everything in sight and even skimming across Eigen Lake.
Back at the event area, vendor row was hopping with activity all weekend long. It definitely says something about the event when companys are willing to drive such long distances to participate and vendor row featured several newcomers like Macs Tie Downs, SSV Works and Jericho Specialties as well as several familiar faces like Assault UTV, Proline Wraps, Rugged Radios and Wolf Designs.
Speaking of Wolf Designs, one of the hot raffle items up for grabs was a custom UTV wrap that would be given away and installed onsite for one lucky winner. A large crowd gathered at the main stage for the drawing on Friday night and the crew from Wolf Designs installed it on the winners vehicle Saturday morning.
Because it was sort of a best guess as to what vehicle the winner would own, Jon and Amy Wolf printed both a 2 seat and a 4 seat option and as a gesture of gratitude for one of the volunteers, promoter Dave Kuskie arranged to have that volunteers 2 seat XP 1000 wrapped with the extra kit. Chad came all the way from Oregon to help me out and spent almost the entire weekend in a water truck helping to keep the dust down said Dave Kuskie. Weve had some incredible volunteers this weekend and this was just something we were able to do to say thank you to Chad for helping us out.
Saturday was a busy day with more drag racing, the infamous Proline Wraps UTV Teeter Totter and the brand new Rugged Relay where teams would attempt to coach a blindfolded driver through a course using a handheld radio. It got off to a slow start but drivers eventually found their rhythm and it turned out to be one of the most entertaining events of the weekend, for both competitors and spectators.
This years Show n Shine competition was sponsored by Super ATV and although the car count seemed to be down a little from last year, the competition was fierce. Builders were separated into two different classes, a Weekend Warrior class for the DIY guys who built their cars themselves and an Industry Professional class for the folks who work in the industry or build custom UTVs for a living. A team of hand selected judges that included X Games Gold Medalist Ronnie Renner had their work cut out for them but in the end, the two UTVs selected as the best of the best both happened to feature some pretty wild engine configurations.
Chris Martin of Roseburg Oregon took home top honors in the Weekend Warrior class with his incredibly clean Z1 RZR and Jon Wolf won the Industry Professional class with his TMW built LS2 powered Werewolf 2.0 RZR. We did a feature on Project Werewolf last year following the Sand Sports Super Show and continue to be amazed at the detail in this car and how well it retains the look and feel of a RZR despite so many automotive components.
Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse on Sunday with heavy rains dampening the entire area (pun intended). Despite the downpour, everyone seemed to take it in stride and when the sky cleared up the Rugged Relay finals resumed and the event closed out by raffling off thousands of dollars worth of products donated by vendors and sponsors. The proceeds from this years raffle went to support Shannon and Connor Wood, the wife and son of our friend Art Wood who lost his battle with cancer a few weeks ago.
After attending the event three years running we think its safe to say that the UTV Invasion is here to stay. Couple this year’s turnout with a sold out vendor row and now OEM involvement and youve got a recipe for one of the premiere UTV events of the year. Its definitely a bit of a trek for folks from the Northwest and Southern California but the more centralized location is attracting visitors from the Midwest and East coast which is all part of the end goal; to provide an epic UTV event that brings together enthusiasts from all over the country for the sole purpose of enjoying the industry.