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Monster truck rallies are becoming more popular in smaller venues

A neon green and red monster truck sits on the edge of a dirt arena.
Taylar Stagner
/
Wyoming Public Media
Mason Menter drives “Big Mama,” a tie in character with "The Last Kids on Earth" book series from Penguin Random House.

Twelve-year-old Mason Menter rides his mini monster truck all year round at shows across the United States.

"It's a 1/3 scale mini monster truck that has all the same features that a full sized monster truck would have," he said.

Most monster trucks are 12 feet tall, can cost a quarter of a million dollars, and have names like Bigfoot, or Gravedigger, or Towasaurus Wrecks.

Menter said in his slightly smaller rig, the motor is from a 1999 Honda Civic. Her body is small and squat. The name: Big Mama.

Miner races around the muddy track to a big crowd of a couple thousand people.

The event is packed, something that's happened as pandemic restrictions are winding down.

Kaedon Berry with Live a Little Entertainment Group out of Idaho, which put on today's show, said that Miner often gets the biggest cheers and the loudest response from the crowd, despite being such a small truck.

"We actually saw our shows increase. And so people simply want to be outdoors to be entertained, to have those memories with their family," he said.

During 2020 and 2021 there were closures due to the pandemic. Berry said that affected their bottom line. But since rallies are largely held outside he's seen the sport bounce back.

He sees a renewed interest in the sport, which he thinks is great, but operation costs can be expensive.

Each tire can cost a couple thousand dollars to replace and weigh around 800 pounds each. A full size truck can go through 15 to 20 gallons of methanol racing fuel a show, and many parts are custom made and can break during shows.

"Then you look at the transportation vehicles to fit an 11-12,000 pound monster truck sometimes, [it] requires something that can pull that with power," he said. "And so most of these teams have semis."

Berry used to work for Monster Jam, one of the biggest monster truck production companies in the world. He said big arenas are nice but there is a market for small to midsize venues that value this type of entertainment.

He said there are around 10 to 12 racing teams in the Rocky Mountain area, all very tight knit.

Berry also employs trucks from bigger markets to keep shows interesting, so the audience gets their money's worth, but local talent usually gets a bigger reaction from the crowd.

Like Jason Ladwig, from Casper. Driving his truck Rat Attack is his full time job. He raced in Riverton alongside Mason Menter and his mini monster truck. He says he's already booked up through September of next year and is happy for the boom in business.

A red monster truck with the name "Rat Attack" on its side.
Kaedon Berry
/
Live a Little Entertainment Group
Rat Attack’s driver Jason Ladwig is from Casper and is enjoying popularity since the pandemic shutdown.

"We are getting busier, and I'm happy for everybody. We're being able to hit so many more venues and stuff going into these upcoming years," he said.

As a kid growing up in Wyoming he remembers it being very expensive to drive to a bigger city and pay for parking, hotels, and tickets to see something like what he does now.

"Coming into these smaller communities and stuff, where things are a little bit more price friendly for families and stuff like that - I enjoy that more," he said.

He also said a lot of families might be struggling to pay for entertainment right now, and he's glad he gets to provide that to smaller communities.

Monster truck shows have evolved throughout the years. The sport is more safe and more wholesome than it was in the 70s. Kaedon Berry, with Live a Little Entertainment Group, says it's his life's work to bring big shows to small places.

"We want to make sure that we're top notch and give people something that they may never have been given the chance to be brought to a town like Riverton, Wyoming before," he said.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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