NASHWAUK — When patrons entered the Nashwauk Rec Center Saturday afternoon for the ATV Association of Minnesota (ATVAM)’s Fall Convention, many asked the same question: “Where are all the ATVs?”
“All the ATVs” and their riders were where one might expect them to be on a sunny fall afternoon — on the trails.
The convention kicked off with a VIP ride Friday. Forty riders took to the trail, including local legislators and representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Nashwauk’s EMT and Police Department.
ATVAM Secretary Mary Campbell said she spent all day Friday on the local ATV trail.
“We definitely enjoyed ourselves,” she said. “The trail’s are nice and very entertaining.”
The three-day convention is being held in Nashwauk for the first time, Campbell said. Fall Convention locations are picked each year based on access to trails and club support, she added.
In Nashwauk, the event was hosted by the Range Riders ATV Club, which was instrumental in bringing the event to town, Campbell said.
The event brought in 120 registrants from across the state. Normally, organizers like to see crowds of 250 to 300 for the fall convention, ATVAM president-elect George Radke said.
“But with the economy and uncertainty of jobs, it’s very understandable that we’ve had lower numbers lately,” he said.
Lou Benepe of Range Riders said though registration was lower, he was pleased to see that those in attendance were participating full-force in the weekend’s scheduled events.
On one side of town, helicopter rides were being offered throughout the day by Northern Helicopters of Hibbing. Benepe said the chopper had been flying steady all day with good response.
The other side of town featured Chisholm ATV club Northern Traxx’s second annual ATV Pull. The competition featured nearly 40 registered riders from across the state and a larger number of spectators than the previous year, organizers said.
For the riders, the event is all about earning bragging rights. For the crowds, there’s a different draw, said Larry Folstad of Northern Traxx.
This was the first state convention Folstad had attended.
“It’s good to see everyone getting together like this,” he said, noting that riding ATVs is all about “getting together, getting outside and being in the woods.”
In addition to Nashwauk and Chisholm ATV clubs, Pengilly’s Red Rock Riders had a booth at the convention.
The event has found support from the community. The Spartan Booster Club sold food and refreshments at the ATV Pull, and local volunteers served food at the Rec Center.
“Lots of the community volunteers are not involved with ATVAM or the Range Riders,” said volunteer Margaret Barr. “People just wanted to come out and help.”
Visitors have taken note of the community’s support. ATVAM officials said they had received “great, positive” feedback from members about the convention’s location.
“The community has been welcoming, helpful and supportive,” Campbell said. “…The city council, the business owners — everyone’s been very accommodating.”
The ATVAM Fall Convention will remain open until 3 p.m. today at the Rec Center.