Payne: 4Fest off-road autopalooza will be Detroit’s fourth major September auto event

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 21, 2021

If you like beer, go to Munich for Oktoberfest. If you like autos, fall in the Motor City is looking a lot like Septemberfest.

The 4th annual Detroit 4Fest will be held Sept. 16-18, completing a diverse quartet of major auto events next fall including the Detroit Auto Show, Sept. 14-25; the American Speed Festival at M1 Concourse, Sept. 29-Oct. 2; and the Hagerty Concours d’Elegance at the Detroit Institute of the Arts with a September date yet to be determined.

Rock 'n' roll. At Detroit 4fest, a participant tests his vehicle's capability.

Held at Holly Oaks ORV park in Oakland County, Detroit 4fest powered by Jeep will be the month’s signature event for off-roaders, showing off the talents of dirt-kickers like the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco in their natural habitat.

The 2022 event hopes to gain momentum from 2021’s successful gathering that saw some 5,000 attendees and nearly 600 vehicles. As automakers drift away from static auto shows, experiential events like 4Fest are a chance for brands to show off their wares to customers in real-world surrounds.

“Lots of cool thing to bring to southeast Michigan (next year). Unlike traditional auto shows, 4fest is very participative,” said Detroit 4fest CEO Tom Zielinski in an interview. “You get to go off-roading for real. That makes it an especially attractive place for all automakers to show off their latest greatest vehicles. On top of all that, it’s an environment for the aftermarket companies to show off their wares in places where you can go use them.”

No obstacle is too great. At Detroit 4fest vehciles crawl all over the formidable landscape.

Detroit 4fest vendors include a who’s who of off-road products like Polaris, CanAm, Rebel, America’s Most Wanted, Fox, Hypercraft, Rancho Suspension — in addition to familiar automotive brands like Ram, Ford and Jeep.

Jeep introduced the 2022 Wrangler Willys to 4Fest media in ’21 with the Xtreme Recon package that includes huge 35-inch tires and specially-tuned shocks. And Ford Motor Co. showed off its all-new Bronco with rides to 4Fest attendees over Holly Oaks challenging terrain.

The park’s terrain is a showplace for the capabilities of features like four-wheel-drive, descent control and swaybar disconnect.

Sure, I can climb that. Vehicles at the 2021 Detroit 4Fest took on the many challenges of Holly Oaks ORV Park.

The pandemic dove-tailed with a market trend toward SUVs and more off-road capable vehicles. Exploring the outdoors is a lifestyle choice and as customers looked to take their vehicles overlanding, automakers fed the urge with new choices like the Bronco Sport, Wrangler 4xe, Wrangler 392, Chevy Silverado Trail Boss, Wilderness trims of popular Subaru SUVs, and more.

“Go out and have a fun weekend all weekend long, spray the mud off, and you have your daily driver to go to work,” smiled Zielinski.

4Fest has grown in popularity with this trend with events in ’21 including Detroit4Fest, Minnesota4Fest, and Texas4Fest in Austin, Texas.

Detroit4Fest is structured for the hardcore enthusiast who wants to assault trails in their side-by-side mudder — or for the novice who wants to learn the capabilities of their new SUV. Seminars and demos are available from industry experts including Offroad Skills 101, Tread Lightly principals, and Vehicle Setup.

For 2022, Detroit 4fest is also cooking up some off-road racing.

Dave Cole, CEO of King of the Hammers, in 2021 Ford Bronco at Detroit 4Fest. He's working with the event to bring a racing event in 2022.

“King of the Hammers President Dave Cole and I are plotting and conspiring,” said Zielinski of one of the best-known off-road racers in the country. “We may have some really cool racing features to add to 4Fest next year. There may even be an EV component which adds a cool modern twist. There’s some cool stuff coming in the EV space.”

In addition to off-roading on Holly Oaks’ network of trails, attending seminars and shopping in the vendor village, visitors can chow down at food trucks. The event is free to the public, while drivers can register their vehicles beginning on Jan. 10, 2022.

Holly Oaks’ 121-acre arena is gaining a reputation as one of the nation’s premier off-road destinations since it opened in 2020. 4Fest hoped to open an additional 71 acres to participants in 2021, but rainy weather prevented bulldozers from prepping the area. It should be available come next fall’s Septemberfest.

Detroit 4Fest

When: Friday, Sept. 16 (media only). Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 17-18 public days, registration opens Jan. 10, 2022

Where: Holly Oaks ORV Park, 13536 Dixie Hwy, Holly, MI 48442

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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