Who goes to Monster Jam? Each year as the big rigs have rolled into Royal Farms Arena for the annual races, I have always wondered who went to watch.
This past weekend, my college-aged daughter and I decided to check it out ourselves.
Who did we find there? Moms, it turns out. Lots of moms. And many of them were gathered in the pit — the dirt-covered floor of the arena — before the show for the chance to meet a few of the drivers and to take pictures in front of the trucks.
Michelle Martino of Manchester snapped photos of her 6-year-old son, Jadon, who was getting his faux hawk spray painted purple. Great Clips, one of Monster Jam’s sponsors, offered these temporary colorings for free, along with washable tattoos. Martino also brought her dad to Monster Jam and he contemplated getting a green hair stripe for the occasion.
“Get what you want,” Martino told him. “It’s your birthday.”
Faith Smith of East Baltimore brought her daughter, Carlesha, and her grandsons, Kaleb and Kindrick. They are fans of Grave Digger, a vehicle drive by Krysten Anderson, one of two female drivers in the eight-person competition, and Monster Mutt, driven by Kristen Hope, the other woman competing on Sunday. Smith’s 5-year-old grandson likes Monster Jam so much, he has attended the competition three years in a row.
Keeping with the family theme, Melissa Kangas of Ferndale brought her brother, Al Wroten, for his 45th birthday. The last time he had been to a Monster Jam, he was 9, he says.
All of these families worked the dirt, standing in line for photos and enjoying a pit experience that was part party and part fanfest. Vendors hawked cotton candy with Grave Digger face masks and snowballs in cups that had fat fires on the bottom of them. Similar to a lot of sporting events, the food offered here was not cheap — both souvenir treats cost $20 apiece. But families looking to spend less could buy toy cars for $10. And soft pretzels and popcorn came in under $10 apiece.
Once the pit was cleared of pre-show fans, dirt movers came in to ready the arena. Monster Jam itself was divided into a series of events that included ATV races, truck races and a two-wheel skills contest, which means the big rigs stood up on two of their fat tires and raced backward or forward in a series of stunt moves. Twice, big trucks toppled over, like felled giants, and a tow truck came out to right them back on their tires. (Both drivers were OK.)
Monster Jam was loud — we brought ear plugs — and also cold. In indoor spaces like the Royal Farms Arena, some of the doors are left open because of the truck exhaust, and I wished I had worn a winter hat. But it was also engaging and sometimes funny. One truck, El Toro Loco, is decorated like a red bull that snorts steam on its opponents. Zombie has creepy white bandaged hands that bounce up, like, well, zombie hands would.
The drivers are referred to as athletes — and while there is clearly skill in making a monster truck roll upright on two tires — these athletes are also entertaining and they aim to charm their fans.
My daughter loved the noise, the dirt and the spectacle of all of it. As for me, I liked the people watching, the truck races and the raised eyebrows I’ve been getting when I tell people I spent Sunday afternoon at Monster Jam.