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Monster Jam! (Washington DC)

Grave Digger flies
This past weekend my old college roommate and I took our six and four year old sons to the Monster Jam at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. We got there early to hit the Pit Party to meet all the drivers and pose with the trucks. Check out all of our sweet pics below, and see why this is an awesome event to take your kid to.

Monster Mutt

Pit Party
Many Monster Jam’s feature a free Pit Party before the Saturday afternoon show. Swing by your local Advance Auto Parts to pick up a free pass and then use that with your paid seat ticket to get in a few hours before the show. Here in DC, they let the crowd out onto the dirt to walk around the trucks, meet the drivers and take pics. It was a big thrill for my four year old (and, well me too) to be close enough to the cars to touch them. My son brought a few of his Monster Jam Hot Wheels to roll around in the dirt. It’s kinda cool now that their treads are dirty with genuine monster truck grime. If you’re hitting the afternoon show, the Pit Party is definitely worth the trip to meet your favorite drivers. Pics of me and my son with the trucks are some of my favorite souvenirs from the event.

Playing in the dirt

Just Before the Main Event
Kudos to the folks who work out the minute by minute planning of the Monster Jam experience. We got there before 11:00am to pick up our tickets and then spent an hour having fun at the Pit Party. We hit the concession stand to grab a hot dog for lunch, and were in our seats by 12:30 (the show starts at 2:00). I was a little anxious that our kids would get a little antsy sitting in our seats so far before opening, but they had us covered. They had some local remote control car enthusiasts driving their cars around the course, jumping over the various car stacks (not piddly little Radio Shack things, but the $300+ gas operated type) then they had a bonus quad race. There would be quad races throughout the event to break up the action a bit, but I was impressed they had some real action before the actual event. You’re not really missing anything, but if you are there before it begins, they do entertain you.

Victorious

The Main Event
The MC came out and explained all of the different events we would be watching. They kicked off with a wheelie competition (which was great, because typically you’re waiting for FreeStyle when they crush the wrecker cars, and waiting through the racing could be trying), then would have 3 racing heats, and then the Freestyle. The trucks all came out in style and started doing their thing, and if you’re 4 years old, or 34 years old, seeing 11,000lb trucks fly through the air is an amazing sight.

Up in the air

The wheelie competition was a great way for the audience to “meet” each of the trucks competing that night. They got points for style and crowd reaction. One of our favorites, Monster Mutt (seen above) slightly damaged his rear assembly during his bit and had to be towed out right at the beginning. We were concerned we wouldn’t see him again that night. But I have to tell you, never in my entire life have I been excited to hear “Who Let the Dogs Out?!!” come over the loudspeaker than when we did late in the Freestyle portion, announcing Monster Mutt’s proud return. The crowd went wild as he attacked those cars in the Freestyle.

Grave Digger v Illuminator

Racing
For what it’s worth, they do a great job of keeping the action moving. The racing competition features 3 levels of elimination. After the first heat (3 races of two 2 trucks against each other), the trucks go to their idling position and there’s another round of quad races. After that is the semi-finals, one more quad race, and then the finale. For everyone that assumes Grave Digger would win, you’d be right most of the time, however on Saturday, Norm Miller drove the Batman monster truck to victory.

Sore loser

For the most part, the typical audience member isn’t going to care who wins the quad races, so a comical villain emerges. It was awesome. This time around, it was two teams. Guys vs girls, and the captain of the guys’ squad couldn’t stop talking smack about the girls, our city, and our football team! The crowd booed and he responded in kind. It was fun watching him work up the crowd and then ultimately lose, bringing the crowd to cheers.

Galactron, protector of peace

Halftime
After the winner was declared for the racing portion, there was a short intermission to allow audience members to go refill snacks or use the restroom. When they came back, we were treated to an extra surprise. Last year in the halftime portion, they had Motorcross bikers doing high-flying tricks. This time, it was an epic showdown between good, and evil. Two transforming robots appeared and had a battle to so save (or enslave) the human race. The two story Galactron appeared, first driving onto the scene looking like a car out of The Last Starfighter. After a moment, he transformed into a robot with scanner lights and a flame thrower hand! (To a four year old, this is about as awesome as you could possibly get). After announcing his intentions of keeping our planet safe from the forces of evil, another sci-fi looking car pulled into the arena. He transformed into the 25ft tall Reptaur and he began threatening Galactron (and us!). After exchanging fireballs and unkind words, Reptaur was defeated and Galactron continued on his quest to defend the galaxy against evildoers. We all sighed a breath of relief, but in reality, that- was- awesome.

Pounce
Freestyle
The Freestyle portion was everything we were waiting for. One at a time the trucks would approach and then leap over or land directly on the wrecker cars in the middle. It was visceral, it was exciting, it was spectacle of the highest degree. You can’t help but cheer at the mayhem going on right before your eyes. And there was a competitive element, each performance was judged on style and execution. Grave Digger was the clear winner in this segment. As Rod Schmidt jumped the Stockholm stack, he landed on his side and it looked as if Grave Digger would be grounded, however after quick maneuvering on Schmidt’s part, Grave Digger actually landed on his tires. And the crowd went nuts.
Rod Schmidt wins the Freestyle

If you’re a fan of monster trucks, I probably don’t have to tell you how amazing an event like this is. If you’re not a big fan, I can promise you that you won’t be disappointed that you went. The brains behind the planning keep the event moving and packed with things to see— not once do you look at your watch and wonder how much longer you have to go. And with all of the opportunities to meet the drivers and get an autograph, it truly is a treat for everyone involved. My recommendations are bringing ear protection for everyone, be aware of camera restrictions before you get there (video recording was not permitted at ours), and maybe pack a small snack or two for the younger viewers. Typically, I think anyone ages 3-10 would love watching monster trucks, and if its a family tradition, or you’re a lover of spectacle, you’ll have a blast as well. The Monster Jam Path of Destruction tour is coming to Baltimore in June, however check the schedule on MonsterJam.com to see when they’re coming to a city near you.

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