Though the Ojibwe Forests Rally did take place last August — unlike the majority of sports activities scheduled during the summer of 2020 — it was a much smaller event, without the usual throngs of spectators gathered to watch the racing action.
"It was kind of low key," said rally chairman Erick Nelson. "There were no spectators, and we didn't do any publicity. It was just a competition."
This year, however, several of the rally's 15 stages will be open to spectators, including the final two stages, which will be held at Detroit Lakes' own Detroit Mountain Recreation Area.
"The Mountain is our headquarters this year, as it was in 2019," Nelson said.
The first eight stages of the race will take place on Friday, Aug. 27, and the course will consist mainly of forest roads.
The last seven stages will be held on Saturday, Aug. 28, with five of them taking place in and around Itasca State Park, and the remaining two at Detroit Mountain.
A customized track has been set up at the Mountain for the race finale, with the last stage being completely visible to spectators. Even those areas not readily accessible to the public can still be viewed via the event's live feed.
"All of the stages will be streamed live," Nelson said — something they first began doing last year, due to COVID-19 safety restrictions on large group gatherings.
"We were the first U.S. rally to live stream every stage, and this year, we're doing it again," he added.
All 15 stages of the race can be viewed online at ojibweforestsrally.com/live, starting at 9 a.m. Friday,. Aug. 28, and continuing through Saturday's final two stages at Detroit Mountain — which will also be available for viewing on a giant 20-foot video screen set up at the Mountain's main lodge.
"We will also have food trucks and merchandise set up," Nelson said, adding that Wood Fire Pizza, Slim Piggins and the DL Ice Cream Truck will all be there, and they will have t-shirts, hats and more race memorabilia available for sale as well. "We will open it up to spectators at 2:30 p.m., and it's a free event."
Though Nelson said rally organizers have no idea how many spectators will show up — "it could be 200, or it could be 2,000," he added — they do know that the number of participants has already reached near-record numbers.
"We have 65 drivers registered," Nelson said on Saturday, Aug. 21. "That's the most I've seen since I became chairman (in 2012)."
"We usually have around 40-45 (drivers)," he continued, adding that all of the races in the American Rally Association (ARA) series have had a larger turnout than normal this season.
Race participants this year include current ARA series points leader — and past Ojibwe Forests Rally champion — Travis Pastrana as well as Barry McKenna, Ken Block, Brandon Semenuk, Seamus, Burke, Bucky Lasek, Karen Jankowski, Ele Bardha and "local hero" Scott Putnam, to name a few.
"We have drivers coming from all over the United States as well as from Canada, Ireland and Australia," Nelson said.
Though the actual racing will take place on Friday and Saturday, there are a number of pre-race events scheduled from Tuesday through Thursday — including the kickoff party, which will take place at Disgruntled Brewing (an event sponsor) in Perham on Thursday, Aug. 26 from 5 to 9 p.m.
"They (the brewery) wanted to be more involved this year," Nelson said of the reason for holding the kickoff party in Perham instead of at the Mountain.
Some of the cars participating in the rally will be parked outside the Perham brewery on Thursday night; there will also be a few rally cars parked outside Detroit Lakes' O'Reilly Auto Parts (another event sponsor) earlier in the day.
Nelson added that the kickoff party will also serve as a memorial event for the late Kerry Freund, who preceded him as chairman of the rally.
If you go
What: Ojibwe Forests Rally Viewing Party
When: Saturday, Aug. 28, starting at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, Detroit Lakes
More info: For more information, including a complete, downloadable spectator guide, visit the website at ojibweforestsrally.com.