23 april 2016 Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Ear plugs in hand we make our way to the second ring of the arena. Painted sand, red and white on a topped off mount in the middle of it. The competitors parked, on an angle as if in a parking garage, the steep tribunes filling with people and noise. Young and old, men and women and lots of kids, ready with a snack and a drink and various forms of ear protection. The excitement fills the space until the first welcome by the host starts the show. Or better yet, the competition.
We are in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and it’s 2 o’clock on a sunny Saturday in April. We have barely secured our ear plugs when the first engine revs up: its roar rolling up the sides of the arena right to the pit of our intestines. It plasters a grin on your face whether you want to or not. The overwhelming growl that turns into the thrill at seeing the enormous tires spitting up sand, the Monsterjam
Speed and Skill
The first monster truck gets ready for the first part of the competition, a race that is about speed and skill. Each truck has to make it over each corner of the sand square as soon as possible. One by one, they speed up the short distance to the corner, bump over the flattened top of the mount to make it down the other side to make the shortest turn possible. Sand showers the corners of the arena while the noise of the motor travels even faster than the machine itself.
To everyone’s delight, the only Canadian competitor: Northern Nightmare does it in less than 16 seconds and wins the first part of the game. The public applauds, cheers and shouts when the driver decides to hand his XXX to someone in the public. The noise is almost as loud as the truck itself, every single person pleading for him to come by their seat. Unfortunately it is too far to see who gets his winning XX but it is time for the next part anyway.
The judges, six in total, judge each Monster truck driver’s ability to get their car to jump as high and as vertical as possible. The scores are given and the highest and lowest numbers are then taken away. The remaining four scores are added to make up the final score for each contestant and their truck.
The host announces the first truck while the general lights are dimmed. The team name and colours go round, exploding on the side of the second ring and the scoreboard in the middle while the team’s theme music swells.
The truck edges toward the side of the mount, then suddenly speeds up to use the steep side of the painted sand. The massive tires come up and like a circus elephant, the truck rights itself unto its rear wheels, the additional speed making it jump up high. Gravedigger and Zombie each do really well. The Canadian Northern Nightmare is off to a great start launching itself straight up as if trying to reach the score board. The landing is spectacular, bouncing high on the massive, rear, 66in diameter rubber tires but like an unsteady toddler learning to walk it does not land on all fours. It falls backwards and as a gasp goes through the crowd, lands on its roof.
This is clearly nothing new because immediately a shovel and ground personnel run over to check on the driver and pull the car upright again. They’re both fine and it makes for quite a show. This is fun and exciting.
Monster Jam Donuts
Time to rebuild and repaint some of the ‘tafelberg’ while we take out our earplugs for a fifteen minute break. Then it’s ‘Donut’ spinning time. The only female driver today, driving the Scooby Do car does very well on this part.
It must be hard work and tons of fun for the drivers to spray their competitors in perfect rounds, the front of the truck creating the hole of the donut. For the general public, apart from the roar of the motor (and maybe I’m not that easily impressed or plain spoiled, who knows?) …mwoah, not that spectacular.
It could be from the cool ‘shooting out’ presentation that happened right before it. The lights dimmed to a reddish tone with that Star Wars type music and effects while two vehicles made their way into the arena. They face each other and like two prize-fighters start to try and intimidate the other by unfolding their weaponry and full battle dress.
Kudos to the developers and builders of these machines and the lightshow creating the right atmosphere. The cars take each other on with loud bangs ‘shooting’ from their ‘arms’ until the victor deals the final blow.
After another break, not sure what for unless it is for the drivers themselves and to refuel, the cars finish their competition with the last part: Freestyle.
As the name suggests anything goes really and judges give points for the best tricks, highest jumps and vertical lifts within the given time period. Once again the cars roar through the sand jumping and bouncing like dinky toys. Whether it is the relatively smaller car mounted on those ginormous wheels or the thrill of the competition, being overzealous or the spunky driver but again Northern Nightmare bounces up and over the sand dune but once the car starts to keel over, there is nothing to keep the truck from landing on anything but its wheels.
It may not get points from the jury for the competition, it does from the public. It is exhilarating and fun. The cars is pulled back upright again, the driver is fine and the final scores tallied up, the overall winner today is Grave Digger. No real surprise apparently when we look up the finer details to this sport and show. Grave digger has been the champion this year!
If you want to see a spectacularly loud but fun show…go see a Monster Jam one!