You may think that you know what is going to happen but you don’t. You may think that you have a plan but life is what happens when your busy making plans. At an event like the 2019 Tennessee Gambler 500, there is only one rule, and by the end of the day, you will know it well.
Gambler 500 festivities are known for their unusual rides and fantastic entertainment. Sometimes the entertainment is in the form of unique choices and other times it’s in the form of just plain bad ones. In either case, all attendees are guaranteed to be amazed and entertained.
Gambler Five Hundred events are typically weekend-long rally-style off-road navigational challenges. Drivers basically gamble that their chosen vehicle will make it to the waypoints provided. A totally predictable amount of chaos and carnage then takes place just prior to drivers attempting to make it home after the gambler. Gambler Five Hundred events have taken place in many states across both the United States as well as Canada. A hallmark of the event is conservation of the land, and this year was no exception.
This latest Tennessee Gambler 500 is the brainchild of event organizer Mason Dixon. You may be familiar with his name, as we have covered the two previous Gambler 500 weekends organized by him. You can read about all the past shenanigans here and here.
This latest gambler marks the third time Mason has put things together to create a pretty awesome experience for all those that attend.
At the first Tennessee Gambler 500, Mason saw the participation of approximately two hundred people. At the following redemption six months later in February 2019 event participation could not be hampered by poor weather. The Tennessee valley saw record-setting rainfall during Redemption and camp was an absolute mud-fest. But registration still eclipsed the inaugural event. Participants came from as far away as Louisiana, Florida, and Minnesota. All had a great time and positive attitudes.
This latest gambler doubled the past number of participants with over five hundred people! That suits Mason just fine. He shared that, “We had about 185 cars register and over five hundred people come to spectate or ride along. I hope it grows as big as the OG.” Mason had better be careful what he wishes for, as the doubling of previous attendees for this event would suggest that might just be possible. The Oregon Gambler 500 (OG) has seen the participation of in excess of over three thousand attendees.
Not Without Challenges
Mason also shared that, “The most challenging thing is finding and securing a venue.” Due to the sheer size of the 2019 Gambler 500, the event had to be moved from the original location in Petros Tennessee to a ranch in Crossville Tennessee. The new location offers a vast expanse of prime real estate for off-road adventures. The campground area alone measured over one square mile of available space. Also available in the immediate area are several miles of dirt roads and public water crossings that were all utilized as gambler waypoints.
The increased area available for both camping and off-road adventure no doubt contributed to the increase in registration and participation. However, with all of those increases comes a shift in both the overall experience as well as the responsibilities of the organizers. One thing remains the same. While attending you feel as though you are spending time with about five hundred of your closest friends. No matter how big the Tennessee Gambler 500 gets we know that it will always keep that family feel.
Mason does most of the work for the event himself. However, with all of the extra people and an ever-growing list of tasks to be completed the team has to grow. Mason is now encouraging people that have a desire to be involved in staffing to message him via the Tennessee Gambler 500 event page on Facebook.
The gambler does not offer much in the form of compensation. The whole thing started because Mason loved the idea and is passionate about his community. Mason does it on his own dime for the most part. He shared, “I do it for the love of gambler. The worst thing is staying up all night on Friday checking people in. But the experience makes it worth it. My favorite thing is the people.” We couldn’t agree more as there is nothing quite like the eclectic group of people that show up to a gambler.
Nothing Quite like It
This year’s event saw the inclusion of more activities in the camp area than past festivities. A pit bike race, fire-eaters, an interpretive dance performance, and a shooting challenge were all part of the fun. Proceeds from the shooting contest benefited the Lake Tansi fire department. A final donation of over two hundred dollars was made to the first responders. A short fireworks show, mud bog, and even a jump were constant sources of entertainment throughout the event.
The Steele Mill, owned and operated by Shane and Wendy Steele, was gracious enough to provide free tacos for the staff prior to the start of the event. Then they served delicious food to all of the participants throughout the gambler. Nothing is better than having a nice hot breakfast burrito on a Saturday morning before you go gamble. Shane and Wendy were able to get in on the gambling fun themselves Sunday afternoon.
Most important of all, the whole gambler community pitched in to fill a forty-yard dumpster with trash collected from local area trails. That kind of effort and conservation has always gone a long way toward encouraging cooperation with law enforcement and landowners alike.
Its Been Real
People that have been to all three of the Tennesse gamblers were interspersed with first-timers throughout the weekend. Joe Yantz and Colin Pascik of Ranger Road fame have been to all three Tennessee gamblers and remain a crowd favorite. Joe shared that the gambler is one of his favorite Ranger Road activities. “It gives me the chance to hang out with other wounded warriors in a pretty unrestricted environment. We’re spending the weekend doing stuff that we wouldn’t normally get a chance to do. At least I don’t.”
Joe continued, “I love trail riding to the different land navigation points and meeting people at each one. It’s great because it takes so little investment to have a good time. You don’t have to build an expensive trail rig in order to participate. You buy a $500 POS and you get an exponential return on that investment in terms of fun. I’m already looking forward to the next one.”
Colin admitted that “I go because I enjoy wheeling events. It’s also an opportunity to help spread the word about ranger road even if it’s in a small way. I also like meeting new people and being reckless the most. Plus it’s way cheaper than being that silly off-road in my Ford raptor.”
Fellow three-time Tennessee gambler participant Bear Weaver agrees that people are the best part of the whole experience. He said he goes, “for the enjoyment of helping out other gamblers. It’s also about the impact and purpose of the event. I love improving the environment by collecting trash. My least favorite thing about the whole thing is that it doesn’t last longer than three days! To be able to go have fun in something that you’ve created than destroyed, and then restored is pretty cool. If I could only share one thing about the experience I would just say always be gambling.”
Always Be Gambling
The gambler motto of always be gambling is a lifestyle accepted and promoted amongst the gambler culture. Basically it is an encouragement to go and live your best life. Taking chances and then adapting to challenges is encouraged. Life can be pretty tough sometimes and adaptation is a skill we can all benefit from. No matter what there are no plans to slow things down. Mason Dixon has created a pretty special event that draws people from multiple states. The next Tennessee gambler is already marked on our calendar.
Plans for the future include even more things to do at camp. Mason and his wonderful crew of miscreants have multiple plans to provide ongoing chances for Gamblerville residents to entertain themselves. Exactly what those activities will remain to be seen. If you really want to find out what shenanigans will be on full display just check out the Facebook page or better yet show up for the redemption run. It will be held March 6-8 202 and may very well be the best time you ever have.