If you were to ask any UTV Enthusiast in the southwest what the best vendor show throughout the entire year is, I would bet money most answers would emphatically be “Sand Show!” Even though the event’s proper name is Sand Sports Super Show, it’s been commonly referred to as its idiom since its debut in 1999.
The only thing cut short about the unofficial sand season opening ceremony is the name, everything else about it has an all-in attitude; this year was no different.
There was some buzz about the slouching economy and an industry correction having an impact on the success of this event. But walking around talking with vendors and attendees alike proved the southwest isn’t ready to cool its jets just yet. The attendance was strong with over 32,000 people from 34 states and 11 countries! Vendor booths were bursting at the seams and the showcase of cool stuff was plentiful.
The organizers of the event, Bonnier, found every way possible to get the masses to the Orange County Fairgrounds this year. Before those gates opened, the lines were stretched around corners and sidewalks. Once the flow of people started their way in, an invasion of eyeballs scanning the booths for the next ticket item began. With so much to see and some incredible show deals, lots of people opted for multi-day passes to get those extra steps in and take advantage of the amazing weather that Costa Mesa, CA provided.
Opening day presents a unique environment, an afterparty that runs late into the night. The show doesn’t open until 4pm, so one trip around the grounds makes the evening fly by. A glowing sunset quickly turns into brilliant LEDs from almost every booth, feeding the energy of a new sand season upon us. Booths were buzzing, beer taps ‘apouring, and conversations of bigger and badder things were amongst us once again.
Speed UTV tipped everyone off to one of Robby Gordon’s infamous live presentations set for Friday night of the event. The crowd showed up in anticipation of the marketing marvel announcing delivery dates, but instead they witnessed a car tumbling off a forklift to stir the social media pot. The stunt was planned, as Robby fabricated a vehicle to lay upside down for eyeballs to see and act as a stage for his presentation. It was a clever move, and it was executed perfectly. The presentation was on par for the course, plenty of updates, lots of statements of the highest standards, but still no firm delivery dates. We’re excited to see the Speed UTV program come to fruition, and it was great to meet more members of the engineering team. Everything we have seen with our own eyes has been worthy of attention, now it’s time to get in the driver seat. All in due time I suppose.
The schedule this year included the FOX Proving Grounds in partnership with Hammerking Productions. The sectioned-off parking lot provided a course for a handful of drivers to give the spectators something to cheer about, as well as some drama, from behind the fences. Names like Albert Contreras, Blake Wilkey, Terry Madden, the Terra Crew guys and even Robby Gordon all laid down some rubber. From donuts and drifting, to jumps and rumble strips, these drivers made great use of the moment to show their best moves. It seemed to be a popular attraction and drew good crowds each of the eight times that it ran over the weekend.
Thankfully, this year shared a lot of similarities to previous. Always managing to uphold the highest expectations of who is there and what is displayed; the show has been generous to its attendees and kept the footprint and flow very similar. It’s become second nature for many to know where to go to see what. Long standing stakeholders like Rugged Radios, Bert’s Mega Mall, KC HiLiTES, SSV Works, Can-Am and Yamaha, 4 Wheel Parts, and others maintain their positions knowing the crowds could find them blindfolded. There’s just something about the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”.
Sand Show is one of the few non-riding events left. As events focus on getting butts in seats, this show focuses on being a genuine indicator of the sport. Many companies use SSSS as the barometer of the upcoming season’s success, and for good reason. UTVs took over this show early on, and it wasn’t by accident. This show focuses on trends, up and coming brands, and what the consumer needs (and more importantly wants). The ownership change in 2016 was a touchy subject for many, but it’s safe to say that Bonnier knew they were joining a family more than taking over a business. They didn’t change the recipe too much and continued to let the sandbox derelicts have their fun.
We say it every year, but if you missed out on the 2022 running and/or have never been, we highly recommend making a trip to SoCal in September. Enjoy the beaches, go visit Disneyland, do all the things that the OC has to offer, but the real reason to come is to see just how Super the Sand Show really is. Bring the family, invite friends, but most importantly bring your wallet and that let your inner child play in the sand!