In a little town with a population 495 called Colville, CA something special is brewing with their Eastern Sierra ATV Jamboree. The event is California’s only ATV jamboree. In a state that can prove to be difficult to put on such events, a business and community leader has emerged. Tim Fesko is the county supervisor and local business owner who has cofounded an event that can inspire us all.
Hello Tim thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. How did this event Eastern Sierra ATV Jamboree all about?
A couple people from town got together because we realized we had something special in our community; we have trails from here to Las Vegas, and with a have a number of existing OHV trail routes close to town and we thought we have a real opportunity. When we approached the chamber about doing an ATV jamboree initially we got some push back and it did take two years to get it off the ground. However Mono County is truly unique, we border Nevada and there are literally thousands of miles in OHV connecting routes and a number of agencies to work with. Maybe off topic here, but just recently I completed an OHV loop from California to the Utah border; it was 1,400 miles there and back. Needless to say we got it off the ground, but it started small. The first year we only had 20 participants, and grew to 33 the next, 60 the following year and now in our 8th year we have shifted our permits to machines at a cap of 130 machines. We recently made the switch to machines as the UTV has become more popular. 70% of our participants now use an UTV.
How are you promoting the event?
We have a 16 page promotional newsletter that is made through the Northern Mono Chamber of Commerce in California. It’s cleverly done. On the front of the Newsletter it states that it is a permitted event and there is a map on the back that shows off all of our recreational opportunities, motorized and non-motorized. In the newsletter it has (22) recommended riding routes with description of the ride with pictures, mileage and difficulty rating. The Newsletter has a schedule of events, which is pretty detailed. In the letter we set the tone that this both a fun and a tread lightly event. We highlight our activities like our ice cream social. The chamber also has something called “Jamboree Bucks” that they run through their budget. This helps drive participants to go into the retail shops, other then the just the food and lodging that our participants clearly utilize. We make it playful and there are not a lot of don’ts at our event.
In the Newsletter there are a number of local advertisements like restaurants, lodging, RV campgrounds and entertainment. In addition we have advertising from nationally recognized companies like Exo Tote, Camp Chef and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC. There is enough advertising that allows us to distribute 12,000 copies to dealerships through out California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico. When we send it out to the dealers we include a cover letter explaining to the dealers what this event is all about and ask them to help us do so. They all seem glad to do so. We have people from all over the country attending, as far away as Minnesota.
One year we invited ATVRider to come to the event and they did a really nice write up with great pictures. We also raffle an ATV. The turning point may have been when I went to the Outlaw Jamboree and the cofounder of that event, Hank Williams, provided some great mentorship on how to make an event successful.
So what tips can you share with our readers?
Have a delegation of tasks, even though I am the co-founder, these days I am not bighting off more then I can chew. I am in charge of over seeing our riding guides, while we have specific people through out our community and in the chamber doing specific tasks. You got to tie in the community, for instance we have the boy scouts involved and we pre run our event to make sure the trails are clear and safe.
On our guided tours I have learned to have one person up front, one in the back and two in the middle. Make sure to preregister the rides, safety is paramount and you got to spread out for long distances. We have learned to have a riders meeting with each riding group before leaving on the trip. Safety becomes front of mind and it’s a great way for the guides to connect with the group prior to the trip. We also keep our event purposely small. At 130 machines we are filling up our town and a couple hotels in the neighboring town. You know you are doing it right when your guests say thank you.
This is a seasonal endeavor and we launch our registration in January knowing that we are going to cap it, and we are 60% full within the first three weeks.
So what would you say the future look like for Mono County, Eastern Sierra ATV Jamboree and OHV Tourism in general?
So everybody knows about the Piute Trail System in Utah is, especially if you’re from the ATV community. Riders are coming into the communities to stay the night at hotels, eat at restaurants and are spending their money in these rural communities. We have the opportunity to make OHV tourism huge, in places like right here in my neck of the woods. We got 4 counties and we can connect them all. People can come and enjoy our sports, riding hundreds of miles and staying overnight at hotels. The challenge is the maps, people look at the Motor Vehicle Use Maps and are confused about a specific loop that has a name but its not on the map. Well of course its on the map, but we need to make the experience more user friendly by designating names to the routes with corresponding maps and appropriate signage on the routes. A lot of this is more feasible when the counties adopt their roads as OHV friendly, and we are trending in that direction.