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Thousands of ATV Enthusiasts Pour Into Berlin For 'Camp RZR' Festival

Casey McDermott, NHPR
Off-road vehicles were allowed to travel on an expanded network of state and city roads during this weekend's festival.

An estimated 12,000 ATV enthusiasts descended on Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin for the second annual “Camp RZR” festival this weekend, sponsored by off-road vehicle manufacturer Polaris. But trails weren’t the only place where the ATVs’ presence was felt.

Pull into any gas station, hotel parking lot or pizza joint near Berlin this weekend, and you’d see them. Or hear them.

The boon in ATV activity around Berlin – spurred by a combination of trail expansions, ordinance changes and marketing campaigns – has been welcome news for lots of locals. Among them: Roland Riendeau, owner of Jericho Deli and Convenience, which sits just about a mile from the Jericho State Park entrance.

“I opened this business three years ago because of ATV traffic. This was an empty building I rehabbed, it had been closed for 12 years,” Riendeau explained during a brief break in between orders Saturday afternoon. “We would love to see more events like this one. It brings a ton of people up here. We see people here from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Long Island, New York – you name it, they’re here.”

As far as he sees it, “It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to Berlin.”

New Hampshire Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache says the influx of off-road vehicles has been a boon for lots of local businesses, especially around festivals like the one held this weekend.

“All the motels and hotels in the area have been booked out for close to a year. Many of them for this weekend were mandating a three-night minimum, and they’re all full,” Gamache says. “Restaurants, breakfast depots, diners were all busy – all morning, all night. So it brings in a lot of money, and revenue to the state, and to local communities.”

Still, the steady vrooms of ATVs on city streets in Berlin and neighboring communities – not just during big festival weekends like this – has not been welcomed by everyone. Some longtime residents complain of noise and reckless driving, and question whether the influx of ATV tourists is compromising the quality of life for non-riders.

Even with thousands more ATVs in town than usual, New Hampshire Fish and Game reported just one serious accident at the festival. A 55-year-old Hooksett resident was injured when her ATV rolled over on a trail at the park. She was wearing a helmet at the time and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

This was the second year Polaris staged its Camp RZR festival in Berlin. It’s unclear whether the festival, which rotates around to different locations across the country, will return again or set up elsewhere next year.

Casey is a Senior News Editor for NHPR. You can contact her with questions or feedback at cmcdermott@nhpr.org.
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