Vendors pleased with consumer turnout, interest level
The 2017 edition of High Lifter Mud Nationals did not disappoint, especially for the aftermarket parts vendors on hand. The 15th annual event drew a large crowd to Mud Creek Off-Road Park in Jacksonville, Texas, for a full lineup of races, friends and a whole lot of mud.
“We saw an increase in attendance this year over last year and more attendees came earlier in the week than ever before,” said Kelly Roberts, sales and marketing manager for High Lifter. “We believe enthusiasts who attend Mud Nationals now plan for an entire week of mud riding, events and spending time with friends and family.”
Chad Erlandson, research and development manager for EPI Performance, said this year’s attendance was more consistent than years prior. “Overall, at first I would’ve said it was down, but once we got out and about and looking into what we had for contacts with people, we were more busy with people than we had been in the past couple years.”
Attendees of this year’s Mud Nationals “raved” about the mud on the trails, saying that it was some of the best they had experienced. “Many attendants were newcomers to the event and said they would definitely be back. We are starting to see more groups coming in packs, plus designing some cool matching T-shirts just for the event,” Roberts said.
The 2017 High Lifter Mud Nationals had several competitions and events during the March 22-26 run. Event sponsors included Polaris, Wheel Pros, Audio Formz, MB Quart, High Lifter, JPS Equipment and Warn Industries. The MB Quart Poker Run returned this year, and JPS Equipment’s JPS Bad 2 ‘Da Bone contest saw more ATV participants this year than ever before. The Audio Formz Mudd Jam was revised this year to have only one class. Competitors played 30 seconds of audio of their choice and were judged by a sound meter.
From the vendor side, Erlandson said that although there were not waves of participants coming through booths at once, there was a consistent stream of people throughout the day. “We’ve been doing Mud Nationals for quite a few years now, and it’s always a great event for us because we’re not only showing the product, we’re helping people with the product and educating them about it,” he added.
Erlandson said one of the aspects of Mud Nationals that makes its it so appealing is the ability to interact with consumers and vendors alike at night, riding and connecting with people. “Most of the trade shows that we go to are either vendor or distributor shows, and you just display; you don’t get to do anything other than talk to people,” he said.
With more than 30 vendors, from dealers to OEMs to PG&A companies, many drew attention. For EPI, Erlandson said its clutch kits and belts are always the most popular among attendees. ITP reported its newest offering, the Mud Lite II tires, and its Mayhem family of mud tires also turned heads.
Bruce Nyland, a sales representative for CST Tires, agreed that attendance was high for consumers and estimated 5,000-7,000 in total. The CST booth saw a lot of traffic with its tire lineup, which has been growing in popularity in recent years.
Lift kits and big tires seemed to be a trend this season. High Lifter’s Outlaw R2 tires were on display and featured a tractor tire-style designed to tear through mud. Roberts added that many machines were pushing a 3- to 7- inch lifts and running tires anywhere from 31 to 36 inches.
Rhett Turpin, director of sales, powersports division, at The Carlstar Group said that ITP Tires had a large presence at this year’s event, including a Maverick X3 equipped with current ITP tire and wheel product and its portfolio of products on display.
In addition to increased brand awareness, Turpin said the company’s participation at Mud Nationals also helps to bring “insight on the future of the niche and product migration.”
Overall Turpin was happy with this year’s outcome: “The crowd demographic is broadening … plenty of dollars flowing at this year’s event, compared to the previous year.”