Pushed forward on the calendar because of the threat of fire closure, Forest Fest VIII took place in the mountains of Big Bear, California, above the smog-filled skies of San Bernardino and Los Angeles. The Big Bear mountains could not have been better. The bright sun and blue skies covered the hills perfectly.
But while the weather couldn't have been better, something was different about Forest Fest this year. Either we are getting outdated or a new generation of wheelers is coming up. OK, maybe not a new generation, but a new generation of rigs. The trails seemed to be riddled with TJs, and not just regular ol' TJs: Rubicons and Unlimiteds were not in shortage. Forest Fest seemed like the place to test out Jeep's new whips. While the Big Bear trails may not be the toughest around, the scenery makes up for it.
It seems that most organized off-road events are as much a social gathering as they are trail runs and Forest Fest is no different. The party had just begun for those who hung out after the sun set. One thing that sets Forest Fest apart from other club events is the fact that after a long day on the trail, you don't have to spark up the single burner portable stove to cook up a gourmet Cup Noodles. Since Forest Fest I, the club has taken on the task of cooking for everyone who showed up with an empty stomach. This year's feast consisted of salad, baked beans (which were wicked), bread sticks, tri tip steaks, chicken, and too many deserts to list. (The tri tip was really, really good.) While Forest Fest had nearly 300 registered rigs for the weekend, the club served up 440 pounds of tri tip and 180 pounds of chicken for 576 adults and 120 children. And this was not a one-time-through deal. Everyone ate till they were stuffed, so if you went home hungry it wasn't because there wasn't enough to eat.
After the food settled and the farts kicked in, the lawn chairs come out for the raffle. This year the club gave away roughly $25,000 in prizes, including three Warn winches, a couple sets of tires, bumpers, diff covers, and tons of other giveaways. The raffle was rigged because we didn't win anything.
Most of the crowd made their way back to their tents and campers because, after all, it was pushing 9 p.m. It was most likely way past their bedtime, but those who stayed up partied like it was 1999. While the rest of the party poopers went to bed, we were out grooving on the asphalt dance floor. Watching the club get their groove on was like watching an episode of Animal Planet. You can't help but laugh at the monkeys.
Inland Empire's Forest Fest was a great weekend for anyone who likes the mountains, wheeling, eating, and just kicking back and socializing with friends. So, for those who didn't make it out this year, check out the Inland Empire 4 Wheelers Web site at www.ie4w.com for more information on next year's Forest Fest IX.