The human urge for destruction in amusement can be dated back to biblical times when people gathered to watch David defeat Goliath. Although that battle was about good versus evil destruction took place. Nevertheless, people gathered to watch the battle. The unrivaled hunger we have for demolition which is found in sports (if you can call them that) from gladiators to bullfights, dance marathons to steeple chases have been around for years. The hunger to tear stuff up has moved from animals to massive vehicles with huge wheels and creative paint jobs and are called monster trucks that put-on shows called Monster Jams.
On March 2, 2019, I attended my very first Monster Jam in Jacksonville Florida. It was a cool and rainy day in The River City. We got to the stadium around 9 a.m. because we were going to tailgate all day. The co-worker who asked me to come along with him, previously stated that we were going to be there from 9a.m– 9p.m. Almost like a nursing shift at the local hospital. As we begin the set up the tailgate and we were also checking our cell phones simultaneously for an hour by hour update of the weather. Slowly the other tailgaters begin to arrive with beer coolers and grills, some even arrived pulling trailers with all kinds of picnic gear which would include gas grills, chairs, umbrellas and one trailer had a complete patio set in the back.
Monster vehicles have been the product of a 1970s explosion in muscular vehicle lifestyle. It turned into the decade that embraced off-roading, four-wheeling, mud bogging, truck and tractor pulls, demolition derbies, sand drag racing, nitro-burning funny cars; NASCAR, which had been around since a group of veteran bootleg drivers began racing stock cars in the 1930’s and 40’s. NASCAR earned its first title cup sponsor in 1971, which catapulted it to the level it is today. This panorama celebrated metal-hearted Americans, loud and proud and gasoline-guzzling, at a time when gasoline wasn’t as expensive as it is today.
The Big Blue Ford F250, which was the legendary Bigfoot was the first real monster truck of its kind, at first just a promotional tool for owner and creator Bob Chandler’s four-wheeling business. After many years in 1981 and appearing at regional car shows and fairs, Chandler rolled Bigfoot’s 48-inch, 150-pound tires over a few junked cars at an event in Missouri, changing the trajectory of monster trucks forever. “From that point on, whenever I went anywhere, people wanted to see the truck drive over cars,” he told the History Channel, loud and proud and gasoline-guzzling and all American.
The Monster truck craze was so a massive in 1981 and the year after that Dennis Anderson left the sport of mud bogging for rolling over junked automobiles in a monster truck. By 1984, Monster trucks were not only seen in local and regional fairs but had plowed thru the dust at Seattle’s Kingdome, Madison Square Garden, and LA Sports Arena, earning thousands of dollars wherever they went. The Monster truck event I went to at TIAA Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida was sold out completely. I think it would be safe to say the Monster Truck will sell out the stadium even when the Jacksonville Jaguars cannot.
By 1990 the American people fell in love with BIGGER, LOUDER, and FASTER monster trucks as a result truck like Grave Digger and Bigfoot, and many others was seen on nationally syndicated shows like ESPN and TNN. In addition, they performed in front of packed stadiums and raceways on many Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. However, but the end of the 90’s the head to head racing took a backseat to the crowd-pleasing and challenging freestyle competitions. Trucks performing difficult tricks over a dirt-covered obstacle course of crushed cars and ramps. Some monster trucks were able to do complete flips. Monster Truck racing was like the motorsport version of pro wrestling which was a gold mine for promotors and fans even Hulk Hogan had his own monster truck, called the “Hulkster.”
Racing remains an important part of the event. However, the actual draw is the spectacle of 12,000 pounds of vividly-colored fiberglass, metal, and rubber doing backflips or front-flips, hovering up to 35 feet in the air to land on junked cars or spinning in endless donuts, roaring backward balanced on its the front two tires, and inflicting so much innocent harm often to the vehicle itself.
Truck safety is first in monster trucks and you are reminded of this throughout each Monster Jam event. In the arena where the Monster Jams are held crashes happen all the time and they are supposed to. Drivers wear flame-retardant suits and 6D crash helmets. They are also linked with communication devices to the drivers pit crew and other officials in the arena in case of emergencies. The gas pedal is specially manufactured and has a toe band in case the gas gets stuck the driver can manually pull it up with his foot. The truck comes with not one; but three fire extinguishers that engross instantaneously. Two of the extinguishers point to the engine and remaining one to the cockpit in case of fire/explosion. Once the driver is in their made-to-measure aluminum and foam racing seat, they secure their head and neck in a seven-point safety harness identical to that of a fighter jet pilot. Everything is secured and the only things that the driver can move are their hands and legs.
For those of us who didn’t grow up loving motorsports, big machines or loud noises the fascination is very hard to explain. However, it became easy because I experienced it myself. I was impressed by the diversity of the crowd, I was expecting to see one demographic to include only white people. As a matter of fact, the co-worker that invited me to the event he and I jokingly said only white people was going to at the event not only because of the loud noise but also because it was raining. I said to myself that I was going to be the only person of color out there. After trying to find information about the race of people that attends Monster Jam events. I was surprised that no information was available which led me to the conclusion that I should stop looking at the world in just black and white. Because after being there with Monster Jammers as I am going to call them affectionately. I can honestly say that Monster Jam has crossed all social and economic backgrounds and all demographic populations were represented well.
Monster trucks have evolved over the years, the monster trucks running now are not the trucks of 40 years ago. Most of the monster trucks have some type of theme, from energy drinks to animated characters. The monster truck, Monster Jam experience is family-friendly and diverse to say the least. In the years to come I expect monster trucks to get even BIGGER, LOUDER and FASTER. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next generation of monster trucks will be operated by remote control. If you are looking for something fun for you and your family the Monster Jam, monster truck experience will be a great outing.
Although it was raining, and I was cold the day of the event I had a great time. I especially like the pit crew experience where I was able to get up close and personal with the drivers of the massive vehicles, get autographs and take pictures. The show was fun also although I didn’t have a favorite, I found myself cheering some of the drivers on. Whether you are died hard Monster Jam fan or a new comer to the sport. I would say it would be a good event to take the entire family if you can tolerate the extremely loud noise.