Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to Fort Scott, Kansas, to experience one of the wildest things I have ever seen in my lifetime. Red Bull Imagination 3.0. While this was the third year the event has taken place, it was the first time I was able to attend. I can say this was an experience I will not forget anytime soon. Unfortunately, I could not attend the entire week but just being there Friday and Saturday showed what level this event is on, so I wanted to share a bit of my experience.
To set the stage, most of the vurbmoto crew arrived in Fort Scott early in the week to document anything and everything that was happening before the main event on Saturday. Wes and the boys filmed everything from the track being finalized to Tyler Bereman’s gigantic 180 ft + hit. While all the film guys were documenting everything happening on the course, the Jason’s (Monroe and Crane) were busy making sure everything was in place behind the scenes. For the first time, Imagination was going to have spectators attend the event complete with a live stream of all the action on big screens throughout the facility. The crew had a command center setup in the back of the facility that needed cables to be ran everywhere there would be a live camera feeding the screens. I’m talking hundreds if not 1,000+ of feet of cable, which we all rolled up in the pitch black. It gets super, super dark in Kansas BTW, so Monroe, I’m sorry if I didn’t have your cable rolled up perfectly. It was dark.
There was a ton of work that went into Imagination week, and I will be giving out a lot of props in this article, just a heads up. But back to me for now.
I was slated to arrive in Fort Scott Friday afternoon, so I head to BWI around 6 a.m. in enough time to try and grab some coffee and a bagel before jumping on my first flight. I got through a surprisingly busy security line and found an Einstein Bagel to grab some food. The line was long, but I was early enough so I wasn’t concerned.
I get up to the front just in time for them to announce they are out of coffee. Who runs out of coffee on a Friday morning? I still order my bagel, which for some reason, they did not toast. At this point I am 0 for 2 and it’s only 7 a.m. After a quick flight to Charlotte, NC, I meet up with Brandon Bolling and Jason Weigandt for the flight to Kansas City. The flights go smoothly and we head off to the rental car building where we encounter our next problem. The rental car establishment can’t find our reservation and inform us that they have no more rental cars available. 0 for 3.
We bump into Cole Beach, Peter Krause, Stephen Erikson, and Garrett Poll while we are waiting, hoping they can give us a ride, but their car is full. I also didn’t want to have my Ogio 9800 sit on my lap the entire hour and a half ride to Fort Scott.
Thankfully, Brandon Bolling was able to locate another rental car and we were on our way. We stopped at Chipotle before the track where Jason Weigandt proceeded to tell me I was an idiot for paying more for the new steak that is on their menu when I could just get chicken instead. He then got the new steak for $12 vs the chicken for $9. I’m not totally sure if he paid for the steak in the end. After we ate, we make the rest of the journey to the course where I get my first look at the work Jason Baker and the Dream Traxx crew had been doing.
One of the first things you notice when walking in the compound is the quarterpipe. It is absolutely massive. Immediately I noticed the size of the remaining features on the course as well. Every single jump or feature is massive. The videos and pictures from years prior really do no justice to the scale of the course. Not only is every jump huge, but they are also all perfect. Picture your local track being perfectly groomed and multiply that by 100. That is how perfect Jason Baker and crew have the course. Every single feature was perfect. Including the line that took the rider off the blade of a tractor to the back of a dump truck to the road gap. I am still trying to figure out how they made that happen.
After I took a few minutes to take it all in, I met with Chase Stallo, Jason Crane, and Kyle Cowling who were doing rider introductions to see if they needed any help. Almost immediately it was pointed out that Kyle and I were dressed the exact same. This is a relentless crew and since I did not feel like being made fun of the remainder of the day, I changed into shorts. It was also 90+ degrees. I had no idea it got that hot in Kansas. To my dismay, the shorts I chose happen to be the exact same style and color as Blake Keith… now we matched and were made fun of the remainder of the day. Sorry Blake.
After that, everyone on-site attended a meeting run by Project Producer, Oren Tanzer. He gave us a rundown as to what we should expect on Saturday as well as how things will be operating. He also introduced a few key figures, such as Steve Shearer and Eric Peronnard. Oren did a fantastic job with this entire event and was the man who was running most of the show on site. Once the meeting was over, we met with Wes to see where we would be stationed the following day to shoot the event. A few guys were stuck in various scissor lifts throughout the facility while others were placed throughout the track or on the fire tower. For me, I was sent to the pits in order to shoot the riders reactions and a brief portion of the track that was located near the pits.
Once we had an idea of what our expectations were for the competition portion of the event, a few of us decided to head back to the hotel then grab a bit to eat. Wes warned us not to be out until 2 a.m. at Sharky’s that night since we had a pretty long day ahead of us. So naturally we decided to go to Sharky’s. If you’re ever in the area I recommend you stopping in there for a bite to eat. Also, it’s one of the only places open after 9 p.m.. But the food was great and the beverages were cold so I have no complaints. They did have seafood which I thought was odd since we were in Kansas and someone tried to convince me to order a Crab Cake. Never order a crab cake outside of Maryland. Just trust me on that one.
After all of us ate, PK, Cole, Stephen, Garrett, Brandon, Blake Shipman, and myself decide to take off on a spirited Bird Scooter ride through Fort Scott. I saw a few things I did not know a Bird Scooter could handle but they eventually died so we headed back to Sharky’s before calling it a night. We had to walk back to the hotel since the scooters shut down at midnight. Thankfully we were not far.
The next day all of us wake up decently early and get ready to head to the course. I jump in with Blake Shipman and we have a gourmet McDonald’s breakfast to get the day started. Once we get to the course, we have a meeting with Wes to make sure everyone is prepared. The guys who were in Kansas all week worked tirelessly to get this thing ready and seriously deserve all the credit with the show that aired on ESPN2 and ESPN+. After the meeting we grab our cameras and all got in position.
Those of us working on the live feed to the screens got hooked up to test the feed. There was a few issues with one or two of the cameras that the Jason’s got sorted out in enough time to make sure we can broadcast to the spectators who came out. From there, we all witnessed some of the most insane riding we have ever seen. From 180 ft jumps to backflips over road gaps to transitions you would of never saw let alone thought were possible. Even though it was blowing 20+ mph winds, everyone was sending it. Unfortunately, we did witness a few crashes and Vicki Golden was not able to finish competing, but there were no major injuries outside of that. Thankfully.
In the end we saw Axell Hodges come out on top of the competition. With the winds being as strong as they were, we did not see anyone challenge Axell for the top spot. Tyler Bereman decided to concede his second run and he and Axell went out together and put on a rather impressive display of free riding to cap off this legendary event.
With the competition coming to an end, Wes was finally able to breathe again, and it was time to start tearing down everything we had setup for the event. Wes, Blake, Jeff, and a few others were inside editing while the rest of us were rolling up cables, cleaning cameras, and cleaning up whatever we could to make it easier on those who had to stay behind to edit for the ESPN show. Those who did not have to stick around headed back to the hotel to wash the layer of dirt off, grab some food, and then a bunch of us headed to the barn where a few awards were given out and we hung out to wrap up the week. I was headed to the airport in the morning so there was not much else I can speak on. Kyle did get a flat at some point Saturday night so we had to drive an hour and a half back to Kansas City on a donut which was fun. It takes a whole lot longer when you can only do about 60 mph.
With that, my time in Kansas was over. I would like to thank Wes and the whole vurbmoto crew for giving me the opportunity to come out and help with this event. Thank you to the LaRoche family for putting this event on, to everyone at Red Bull for putting this on including Tyler Bereman who not only rides the event but does a ton of work behind the scenes to make sure Imagination is the best it can be. Most importantly, shout out to all those who grinded it all week to make sure this gets the coverage that it deserves. You guys kicked ass, seriously. You know who you are. This is an experience I will remember for a long time. I hope to get to do it again one day.
Main image: Chris Tedesco / Red Bull Content Pool