The Monster Jam Trucks are Coming!
Story by: Ricky Jimenez Carrasco | Photos courtesy of Feld Entertainment
The Monster Jam monster truck show will rumble its way into the UTEP Sun Bowl this weekend! This year’s show will feature 18 of its famous Monster Jam trucks including fan favorites Gravedigger, Son-uva Digger, El Diablo, El Toro Loco, and the Monster Energy Truck. Also in this year’s line up are Robosaurus, a mechanical fire-breathing dinosaur the size of a semi, and Street Warriors, off-road races featuring local trucks that compete for prizes and bragging rights. Shows will be 7pm on Saturday, March 1, and 2 pm on Sunday, March 2. All general admission tickets are $12 each.
Joe Vilchis, Event Director – Feld Entertainment
A key difference to this year’s show is that it will be directed by Joe Vilches, an El Paso native who has been with Feld Entertainment (Monster Jam’s parent company) for 5 years. Joe worked as a manager for Thunder Alley, a local racing arena owned by his father, for about 7 years. Joe put in his application as a fabricator to work on the Monster Jam trucks, but because of his local experience, he was hired as an event manager for the Aurora, Illinois, company. After all that time in the cold of Illinois, he just got the opportunity to move back to El Paso.
“I used to take my kids to the Monster Jams when they were little, not having a clue that I would be doing this for a living. I’m really the only one in the company who speaks Spanish. That ability has taken me to many of the international shows including Mexico City, Panama, and Costa Rica. Now, I finally have the opportunity to do a show for my hometown! Being a local and knowing what locals like, and simply understanding our community better, I know I can put on a very good show.”
Vilches explained that it usually takes about a year of planning to put on a show, from the smallest venue to something as large as the New York Giants Stadium where they have had 60,000 person crowds. The shows at the Sun Bowl can have crowds as large as 45,000 people.
With his experience, Vilches knows what it takes to put on a good show. “One of my best shows ever was in Mexico City where the venue has state of the art jumbo-tron screens, robotic lighting, fog machines and sound systems. It makes for a better show because those are tools that we can use. We can format our shows to fit any venue. But when the show flows, when the trucks are performing at their best, when the crowd is chanting the truck’s name, that’s special.”
Vilches explained that he and the other event managers get together often to view tapes on each other’s shows to take notes, compare, critique and learn from each other. “On any given weekend, there are 9 or 10 shows across the country. We own about 80 trucks full time and have the capacity to hire independent drivers that brings our truck count to around 200 trucks total. That’s a lot of shows, a lot of action, and a lot of video to go over, but it’s all so we can bring a better show each time.”
He explains that in ticket sales, Monster Jam Truck shows are above even NASCAR because they give the best possible show in a shorter amount of time. “Our shows aren’t 10-12 hours long. Our shows are 2 hours of non-stop action and entertainment. You don’t have to invest an entire day to this.”
Part of the show is also the competitive nature of the races that take place. Points and victories of each driver are recorded throughout the year. The top drivers and trucks are then invited to the Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas on March 20-22. “When you see the drivers pushing their trucks to the limits, there’s a reason for that. The competition is real!”
Joe Vilches would like to invite all El Paso to come see the show he’s prepared for his hometown this weekend. “There’s something for everyone! On Saturday there’s a pit party before the show from 3-5pm where all the fans can come to the floor and meet all the drivers and buy merchandise from their favorite trucks. There will also be live music playing. After the show, the drivers will be on the concourse to meet with the fans and sign autographs until the last fan leaves.”