Why do you attend off-road events? It’s a question that I often ask people who frequent organized events.
By Jonathan Harris: FJ Summit CoDirector. Special thanks to CoDirector Matt Robb for demographic information and CoFounder Time Terleski for historical background.
Photos by Rusty Childress, Main Event Imaging
Is it to experience off-roading in a safe, organized, environment? Is it to get new ideas for vehicles upgrades? Is it to spend time with old friends and meet new people? For me events are always for the later. Over the years, many off-road events have sparked meaningful relationships and some of my best friends came out of chance meetings with people on the trail, at vendor booths, at the group dinners and of course, at the raffles. This desire to connect with people was what brought me to the FJ Summit, and what has kept me coming back for more.
The FJ Summit started like many other events, on an online forum. A “national get-together for Fj Cruiser forum members” was first conceived in July 2006 on FJ Cruiser Forums. Jason Gottlieb (Bostonian1976) first proposed the idea and solicited inputs from forum members as to where to hold a “National Get-Together”. A spirited debate as to location ensued with the East Coast. Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, the Black Hills, Moab and Colorado being considered. “Cruiserpalooza”, an early working name, was starting to gel. Forum members including ( but not limited to ) Bostonian1976 (Chairman), CO-Jeff , Castle Rock FJ, VTFJC , FJR Colorado (Trail Boss), GsGmac, Valkyrie, T2Cruiser, Shane4x4, Miss FJ and The Nookie were the first participants in organizing what would later be named, by forum vote, “FJ Cruiser Summit”.
Five individuals. Jason Gottlieb, Seth Kovanic, Jeff Thompsen, Tim Terleski and Ty! Boyack made up the official Co-Directors year one. A not-for-profit corporation was formed, FJSummit.org, Inc. and the FJ Summit was born.
Year one could have been the last, if not for the terrific support and participation of the Toyota Trail Teams. Taking on the responsibility to be Trail Leaders, their experience and expertise made for a safe and successful event the first two years. In following years their expertise and mentorship was passed through the ranks and the FJ Summit eventually was able to take on these responsibilities. This process of passing the torch has continued every year since.
Fj Summit 2007 had approximately 375 participants with close to 200 vehicles. Ouray, Colorado, dubbed “The Switzerland of America” and the surrounding terrain proved to be the ideal location! What was discovered that first year was that FJ Summit not only brought together the drivers and their vehicles, it included their families as well. So many friendships were made and the realization that the event became a family oriented vacation destination resulted in the this unique off road event. Those first year participants spread the word and the foundation for the incredible growth, the incredible camaraderie, the generous charity and the continued fun that FJ Summit has become!
Over the year’s the Summit has grown to become one of the largest Toyota 4x4 events in the nation. Summit X had a total of 409 registered vehicles with 860 adults and 150 children 11 years of age or under for a total of 1,010 total participants. For perspective, the population of Ouray is about 1,100! Summiteers came from all across North America with representation from 43 states and Canadian provinces.
My favorite aspects of the Summit are the family friendly environment and the opportunity to introduce new off-roaders to the activity as a husband and father myself, I can say the Summit is hands down the best off-road event for families. With easy to moderate trails available, great accommodations and activities in ouray and activities for kids, there is something for everyone. Each year we have attendees ranging from those who have never shifted into 4x4 to world renowned expert drivers. For the former, we provide a 4x4 101 class, by Trail Teams alum, Brian “Woody”, Swearengen. We also provide recommendations for new drivers on easier trails and have our wonderful trail leaders work with them throughout the day.
Although the Summit is managed by four CoDirectors (Matt Robb, Chris Davis, James Krieger, and myself, we receive tremendous support from many of the founders who still attend each year. The event could not happen without our volunteers. All of those people that you meet, leading trails, folding shirts, stuffing swag bags and selling items at the store do it for the love of the event and the people around them. I am always blown away and humbled to have each and every one of them as part of the team.
If you have never attended the Summit in the past or are an old timer, we would love to see you at Summit XI. I think you will enjoy what you see. Until then, see you on the trail!
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