The Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally returns for its eighth year in Detroit Lakes Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 22-24 — with more racers than the 39-year-old road rally has seen since its early days, according to organizer Erick Nelson.

"We've got 51 teams registered, which is better than we've had in quite a while," said Nelson, who chairs the event's organizing committee. "It's easily been 10, and probably more like 20 years since we've had that many. It's a great turnout for us this year."

Several of the most popular rally car drivers on the American Rally Association racing circuit will be back for the 2019 event, including 2018 champion David Higgins, 2017 champion Travis Pastrana, Lauchlin O'Sullivan, Barry McKenna and many more racing favorites.

Organizers are also expecting the turnout from local racing fans to be as good as it has been for the past several years, if not better — though there have been some changes to the schedule that Nelson hopes will go over as well as the other things they have tried since moving their "home base" to Detroit Lakes eight years ago.

"Detroit Lakes has been such a great fit for us," said Nelson, adding that they have tried quite a few different things to attract local fans over the years, such as the "street stage" that brought the drivers down along Detroit Lakes' West Lake Drive for an exciting, up-close-and-personal view of the race, and hosting the Parc Expose event.

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The Parc Expose, where the public can come get a look at the rally cars and meet the drivers, has been moved from downtown to Detroit Mountain Recreation Area this year. The event has moved to Thursday night.

The Saturday night awards ceremony and driver celebration that has traditionally been at the Pavilion will also be at Detroit Mountain, Nelson said.

"We've been using the Pavilion for so many years, right down by the lake ... unfortunately, it got rented (for another event) this year," he added. "So we needed to change things up."

As they were looking for a new location to host the event, race organizers also found themselves another sponsorship partner in Detroit Mountain — which will be hosting several of the nonracing events on the schedule this year, such as driver and volunteer registrations, technical inspections, driver and staff meetings, along with the aforementioned Park Expose and kickoff party on Thursday, and both the podium awards celebration and finale banquet for drivers and volunteers on Saturday night.

Though the racers will still be going through the familiar stages in the Paul Bunyan and Itasca state forests on Friday and Saturday, the "super special" stage event held out at the Becker County Fairgrounds last year has been expanded considerably.

"The final four stages will be held out at the fairgrounds this year," Nelson said.

Spectators for the final stages at the fairgrounds in Detroit Lakes will be treated to a special perk this year, Nelson said: A new, 20-foot viewing screen that will enable them to watch all the action from two different stages happening simultaneously on different parts of the fairgrounds site.

If you go

What: Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally

When: Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 22-24

Where: Detroit Mountain, Becker County Fairgrounds, Paul Bunyan and Itasca state forests

Cost: There is no charge for non-VIP spectators to come to any of the public events, such as Thursday night's kickoff party and Park Expose at Detroit Mountain, and the final race stages at the Becker County Fairgrounds Saturday night. There are also viewing areas for some of the forest stages of the rally.

The Ojibwe Forests Rally offers a special, paid VIP experience for racing fans that want to get first-hand viewing opportunities, too.

Info: The schedule, including maps that show the spectator locations, can be found at www.ojibweforestsrally.com.