Throughout 2020, event cancellations have been nearly constant. That’s why Jeremiah Gardner knew the Panhandle needed to Riot now more than ever.
The High Plains Riot will return to the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds on Aug. 21-23.
“Obviously, there were concerns early in the year,” Gardner, the event’s organizer said. “March and April, my thoughts were everything was going to be canceled all summer.”
Like many, by the time Easter rolled around, Gardner was going stir crazy. He was tired of being cooped up at home, and began reaching out to other event organizers and participants in the community and across the country.
In May, he decided he was going to work on organizing 2020’s event with the hope COVID wouldn’t eventually render the plans impossible.
“Obviously, it will be a very different feel this year,” he said.
Local sponsorship is down, due to small businesses struggling to catch up after the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked. Gardner knew he’d have to lean heavily on corporate sponsorship, and said they quickly stepped up to the plate to make the Riot possible.
Three sponsors in particular, Hydrotex, B&C Steel and High Plains Budweiser, gave Gardner the confidence and support to move forward with planning the event.
“The Scotts Bluff County Fair Grounds and Ag Society have bent over backward last year and this year to help the High Plains Riot be as successful as last year,” he said. “They sponsored the concrete for the burnout pad which has turned into a main feature of the show.”
The burnout competition will return this year, along with the car show and charity barbecue. Money raised at the barbecue will go back into the community to help local families in need.
Some new features are on the schedule this year as well, Gardener said. A large cruise for participants is planned for Aug. 21. The cruise will end at the Midwest Skyview Drive-in where a private movie will be shown for participants only.
A hotrod church service on Aug. 23 will be followed by a cruise to the top of Scotts Bluff National Monument.
“We will also have many artists from all over the country including Dan Johnson from St. Louis and Nikki Ross from Arizona,” he said. “We have pinstripers and car culture influences everywhere.”
When faced with the potential cancellation, Gardener wasn’t concerned with how the Riot would recover after skipping a year.
“I was not worried at all,” he said. “This is the people’s show, and it offers things nothing in our area offers. It’s a very different event that keeps expanding.”
Where else can you see a low-rider, a rat rod and everything in between? Additionally, attendees can camp and ride their mini-bikes and other powered toys, he said.
In order for the event to move forward, precautions have been put into place to meet health guidelines. Masks are not required since the majority of the event is outside. Steps have also been taken to prevent people from congregating in one area. For example, food trucks will be more spread out.
The cost to participate is $20 per vehicle, while attendees will pay $2 for parking, which benefits the Morrill Wrestling Program. More information is available on The High Plains Riot Facebook page, or by contacting Gardener at 308-641-3697.
For Gardener, the Riot’s continued growth has been a dream come true. It may have remained a dream without the community, he said, which was part of why he felt the event was so vital this year.
“I’m very blessed and just want to pass those blessings on to my community,” he said. “Especially this year with all of the chaos, division, fear and hatred, I hope this show can bring us together and step away from the madness for a few days and just enjoy each other and have some loud, smoky, crazy fun.”