Photos By: Brandon Bunch & Keith Hook
Story By: Keith Hook
It feels like a lifetime since we walked the grounds of the Orange County Fairgrounds in awe of all the UTV builds and brands that make the Sand Sports Super Show what it is today. With restrictions and cancellations being the unfortunate norm in California, it seemed inevitable that the largest sand show in the US would fall victim to the pandemic. Bonnier Corporation, along with the countless partners and sponsors, did everything in their power to avoid the show from disappearing again or being moved to another venue like last year. Thankfully, Orange County had mild restrictions in place, and all the stars aligned. We had ourselves an epic event – the show must truly go on!
Excitement peaked before the gates even opened. Vendors arrived earlier than normal and were set up in record time, as if they had been waiting the entire 2 years to be there. Even though the footprint was slightly smaller than 2019, it still seemed as exciting. We noticed a few recognizable names to be on the absent list, but the motto this year was not can we afford to be at the Sand Show, but more so can we afford the influx of business from it.
In years past, any vendor at the iconic southwest event would be ecstatic for record sales and the surge of new business. However this year, many had given up the killer deals and once-a-season sale because the last 18 months has been more than they can handle. With material shortages, labor inconsistencies, industry growth, logistical nightmares, and the amazing surge in revenue from the industries that play in this sport – it has been nothing short of a roller coaster for manufacturers and dealers alike the last 18 months. COVID caused its havoc in many ways, but it definitely propelled the UTV industry in ways never thought possible.
For those that manned a booth this year, the hype was real. Tens of thousands of people ran their course with money to spend. The typical show deals weren’t as notable as years prior, but that didn’t stop the transactions. Consumers are very aware that right now it’s not about the deal, but more importantly about the availability. Which is a great mentality, allowing the manufacturers to invest into bigger and better product lines.
Walking the show it was very apparent that brands are investing into their product lines however possible. There were some new flavors from manufacturers like Polaris and Can-Am to look at, but the buzz was definitely at Speed UTV for that category. Love it or hate it, agree with it or not, having a new manufacturer entering the game is notable and not an easy feat. With their announcement and presale debut at the 2019 event, it was only appropriate that Speed UTV debut their pre-production units at this year’s event. Attendance was strong Friday night (free beer is known to do that) and ongoing interest was consistent throughout the schedule. It may not be a solution for everyone, and not everyone was a fan, but for many it was warmly welcomed.
For the most part, the majority of the show is about the aftermarket companies, and this year was no different. From mirrors and music to wheels and whips, there were more options than you could count. It was great to see what new toys had come of the last couple years, and everyone was prepared to walk out the gates with them. Many brands had reported record event sales and a huge increase in volume of traffic. We watched brands like Axia Alloys, Rugged Radios, Simpson Seats, Klock Werks, SSV Works, Assault Industries, PCI Race Radios, High Lifter and others moving product faster than they could keep up with and all leaving the show with huge smiles on their faces. They all love to engage with their customers face-to-face, and for some it had been quite some time since they’ve done that.
The show overall was a success, from every aspect. It was great to see some normal activities as the southwest riding season kicks off. It was our 8th year in a row, and just like every previous year, we walked away with some killer content, great conversations, and a clear path of what we can expect from the months ahead. Here’s looking forward to 2022!