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By: Tim Donaldson

Hatfield-McCoy Trails – National Trail Fest 2008
(Part of’s Feature Coverage of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails)

“When are you going to take out the trash?” These were the words firmly spoken by my wife as she, obviously agitated, wanted to know why I was taking a nap during the middle of the day.  The truth was, I was very tired and needed a break. The trash could wait, or so I thought. As I attempted to drift back into a slumber, I was reminded of the upcoming weekend excursion to the Hatfield-McCoy Trails to cover Trail Fest 2008 which in wifespeak translates to, “You better have all of your work done before leaving.” Frankly, my wife is awesome, and she supports all of my endeavors. In fact, had our personal circumstances for the weekend been a little different, she would have joined me this year for the Hatfield-McCoy National Trail Fest 2008 which is certainly designed to be a family event.

After thoroughly assuring all trash cans were empty, I departed for Gilbert, West Virginia–home of the National Trail Fest and direct access to Hatfield-McCoy’s Browning Fork Trail System. Held this year from October 9th to the 13th, the event spanned a five-day period that was filled with trail riding, demo rides, food, fun, and entertainment. With such a diverse variety of activities, this year’s Trail Fest marked the first time that event goers could select a registration package that would cater more specifically to individual needs. Rather than having a “one-size-fits-all” package, as in years past, those already having Hatfield-McCoy Trail permits or not desiring the meal package would not be required to pay the full registration price. Also, anyone wanting to simply observe the on-site activities was eligible to purchase the spectator-only packages.

Base camp for the 2008 Trail Fest was located at the Larry Joe Harless Community Center, a 65,000 square foot, recreational facility that provided daily meal services and approximately 140 campsites. As for the events, there was something for everyone. Daytime activities included a scavenger hunt throughout the town of Gilbert and Poker/Dice Runs on the Browning Fork Trail System, with winners taking home cash and prizes.  Not surprisingly, most ATV enthusiasts were enjoying the 115 plus miles of the Browning Fork Trail System which has direct access to the towns of Gilbert and Man. Talking with some of the riders at Trail Fest, many made the trek from Gilbert to Man – a round-trip journey that can take a large portion of the riding day. Others even journeyed to the other Hatfield-McCoyTrails systems, since Trail Fest permits allowed participants to ride on all 500 miles of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

Once back in Gilbert and making a quick stop at the local car wash, after a full day of riding or enjoying the local amenities of Gilbert, the fun was just beginning. Friday evening featured Vegas Night, a casino-styled atmosphere where winning proceeds were awarded in Hatfield-McCoy bucks. Participants were able to use the “play” money to bid on real prizes, such as 2009 Hatfield-McCoy Trail Permits, goggles, gloves, and other merchandise which was made available by the event’s sponsors. Other evening activities included the very popular mud pit and drag races. Sitting in the saddle all day didn’t deter many enthusiasts from drag racing against each other or putting their machines to the test in the troublesome mud pit. Some preferred to try out the mud without the aid of an ATV in the Fisher’s ATV World Mud Run, an event that is enjoyed by those watching as much as, if not more than, those participating.

If that wasn’t enough entertainment, some participants sang karaoke or listened to an outdoor music concert. Others loosened their muscles with a chair massage.  The vendor areas were open throughout the day and night selling shirts, tires, rims, helmets, ATVs, or whatever. You name it, someone probably had it there. This year’s Trail Fest had significant manufacturer representation with Toyota Trucks, Kawasaki, Can Am, Arctic Cat, Suzuki, Yamaha, and BMW Motorcycle–to name a few–being on site.  Most provided demo rides of their new products on a ½-mile course that was situated adjacently to the vendor area. The course was designed to feature the typical terrains that a rider may encounter, giving prospective buyers a realistic impression of machine performance. Also, fans were able to meet television hosts, Jeff Steenbakkers and Brian Fisher, from Dirt Trax Television and Fisher’s ATV World, respectively, who were in attendance and filming throughout the weekend.

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