NEMBA Fest 2016: For the Love of Bikes

Jul 5, 2016
by Brice Shirbach  






2016 marked the 19th year of the New England Mountain Bike Association's annual celebration of summer and mountain bikes, and the 5th consecutive year it would call East Burke, Vermont home. NEMBA Fest and the Kingdom Trails have proven to be a significant draw for mountain bikers near and far, as well as for the mountain bike industry itself, with one of the largest expos and outdoor demos in North America.

The state synonymous with skiing, ice cream, cheese and Bernie Sanders is quickly becoming equally as well known for it's abundant and amazing trails, and the tiny town of East Burke is at the forefront of this campaign. The Kingdom Trails Association worked tirelessly leading up to and during the festival to prepare the trails and the town for the onslaught of riders making the pilgrimage to the area, with nearly 2,000 souls looking to celebrate summertime and bikes with their pals this year.

Pinkbike was once again on hand to share the love and capture the vibe, and caught up with NEMBA Director Phil Keyes to chat about the affair, as well as Kingdom Trails Association heads of state in Tim Tierney, CJ Scott and Lilias Ide to discuss the work and logistics that come with such a massive undertaking, and why they think it's been such a big success for everyone involved.





NEMBA Fest 2016
Welcome to the Northeast Kingdom.

NEMBA Fest 2016
These signs proved to be a creative way for you to bring some of your favorite memories home with you.

NEMBA Fest 2016
The area provides a lovely backdrop to the expo.





Phil Keyes, Executive Director of the New England Mountain Bike Association





NEMBA Fest 2016
What is your role at NEMBA, and what is NEMBA’s role in the northeast?
I’m the executive director of NEMBA, and have been in this role since 1998. I’ve been associated with the association since 1993. I was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame a few years ago for my advocacy work. NEMBA is a 501c3 non-profit, with over 5,500 members. We are in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine; with only one chapter in southern Vermont. We put on hundreds of trail maintenance events per season, and thousands of mountain bike rides every summer. We basically work to build the mountain bike community all over the northeast.

How did you guys get together with the Kingdom Trails Association? Why is this region such a good fit for the event?
5 years ago we began partnering with the Kingdom Trails up at Burke Mountain. We had always wanted to have the event here, but the issue was the lack of any real estate for an event like this. Only recently has an area opened up that’s really suitable for this. Our first year was up on the mountain, and it was awesome, but we immediately ran out of space. After that first year, we realized this and began looking for another venue, and we found the perfect partner in the Wildflower Inn. It was a match made in Heaven with all of this open space, and the trails that go right through this property. It’s been a great partnership between us, the KTA and the Wildflower Inn. We all bring different things to the table, and it’s been great to build this up together.

What is NEMBA Fest all about?
It’s a bit different than a lot of the other mountain bike festivals out there. What we’re really trying to do is bring the broader community of mountain bikers together. We’ve been holding festivities on Father’s Day weekend so people can come with the whole family. We really believe that the future of our sport is about families and kids. We want the full scope of riders; young shredders, older riders, and with no racing here, it’s all about folks who are just passionate about bikes. That’s who we’re after. I think that by appealing to such a broad range of riders, that’s what will keep this festival going. Everyone plays nice, and we’re just trying to encourage people to be good stewards of the land. The vibe here is chill, gentle and fun; that’s what we’re going for.

NEMBA Fest 2016
There is no shortage of delicious food and beverage options available throughout the weekend.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Ribs are always worth the wait.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Without a doubt one of the most beautiful shuttle mobiles you'll ever see.

NEMBA Fest 2016
The expo area pre-noon start on Friday.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Liv and Giant were busy throughout the weekend.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Don't call it a comeback..but Ellsworth seems to be making one.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Of course the Kingdom Trails Association is there to greet you as you enter the expo.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Best schwag from any trail organization. Period.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Over-stuffed burritos are a hit with people riding bikes all day, as you might imagine.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Liv's Elizabeth Glas was cranking out demo bikes, helping with suspension setups, and answering scores of inquiries all weekend long.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Scurvy Dogs Racing with rad threads for trail builders and trail destroyers alike.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Alex Rims' Evan Kinzey was more than happy to talk shop when he wasn't busy pumping out chainless runs with the author down "Tap 'n Die".





Tim Tierney, Executive Director of the Kingdom Trails Association





What was the attendance officially this year? How has it grown over the years?
This year's NEMBA Fest had a considerable increase of participants as well as vendors. We had 5800 in attendance for the three days including 250 vendor personnel and 150 volunteers. It grew comfortably for the first four years, but this year was a marketable increase and I believe the industry reps were pleasantly surprised by the number of attendees, campers and families that showed.

Who are some of the folks responsible for putting on this event?
There are three major partners: Kingdom Trails, the New England Mountain Bike Association, and the Wildflower Inn. The major supporters are Pedro's Bike Products and The Burke Area Chamber of Commerce.

What makes the Kingdom Trails such a good fit for the festival?
First of all, it's the inexplicable vibe of the area, where mountain biking is an everyday theme and widely supported. That really makes a difference. 150 local folks sign up to volunteer to either coordinate parking or to lead group rides. The proximity of the trails to the festival, the perfect trails for bike demos, and the ability to take your kids out in another direction are all great selling points for the industry and the participants. Plus you can't beat the view of the Vermont hills in late June.
The best town ever East Burke VT is surely in the running. Get yourself to the Kingdom Trails and sample the goods

NEMBA Fest 2016
Van life has its appeals, but for families, camper life is the gold standard.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Five Ten was on hand to demo, sell and even give kicks away.

NEMBA Fest 2016
NEMBA Fest has ended on Father's Day over the past couple of years, and it's proving to be an apropos tradition.

NEMBA Fest 2016
When in Rome...

NEMBA Fest 2016
The views of The Shire from atop Darling Hill never grow old.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Jeff Lenosky leads a group of friends down one of the area's most popular trails, Moose Alley.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Ide Ride tour guide Ella Skalwold gets in a last bit of riding before her knee surgery just a few days after NEMBA Fest.

NEMBA Fest 2016
The KTA trail crew has been hard at work making sure the trails were primed for the massive amount of riders making the trip to East Burke.

NEMBA Fest 2016
These woods are dark, deep, and always lovely.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Even in the north, sunscreen is a good choice.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Alex McAndrew was on hand Friday to lead rides and do some filming for a promotional video before a busy race schedule sees him racing in Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Lenzerheide within a 4 week time span!

NEMBA Fest 2016
Catamount Arts and the KTA partnered to sponsor the 2016 Upcycle Art Bike Competition, and invited submissions of 3-dimensional works by both emerging and established artists.

NEMBA Fest 2016
This year's winner makes sense in the land of bikes and bears.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Jeff Lenosky was still recovering from an injury that prevented him from performing his trials show, so Mike Steidley was on hand to perform for the crowds while Jeff emceed various shenanigans.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Cannondale and NEMBA handing over the keys of a sweet new rig to a lucky new owner.





CJ Scott, Trails Manager for the Kingdom Trails Association





The best town ever East Burke VT is surely in the running. Get yourself to the Kingdom Trails and sample the goods
What kind of prep work does the KTA Trail Crew put into the network leading up to NEMBA Fest?
The crew and I try and get things as "showcase ready" as possible. We take a lot of pride knowing that riders come here to ride the trails we design and build and want them looking as good as possible. We try and get the Three T's (Tody's Tour, Tap n' Die, and Troll Stroll) as dialed as they can be since they are part of the demo loop and see a ton of action. Ideally we try and get at least one new project completed prior to the festival. This year we had the bottom of Cat Box Hill rerouted and machine built as well as constructed a new bridge on Bemis and put in a switchback to make it easier for beginners. I like to try and get a few guys out with brush saws and our mower to get as much mowed and trimmed as possible. It really can be quite hectic leading up to the festival for the all of us. Not only do we do the trail work leading up to it, but we do much of the festival site work leading up to the event: fencing, flags, banners, signage, camping and parking layout, etc. I don't have a full crew sometimes until a week before NEMBA Fest, so I'm often forced to throw guys right into the fire which can be a bit tricky when they are green to trail work. This year I have the least experienced crew I've ever managed, but they killed it. I'm super proud of their efforts before, during, and after the fest and look forward to this summer with them.

What were some of the new features and updates that you think people were most excited about?
As mentioned before, we reworked Cat Box Hill with a mini excavator, so that got some use. Last year at NEMBA Fest we hadn't built Bear Back or Piggy Back yet so those two trails were able to be showcased and since they've been constructed have become two of our premier trails. We also just completed a new beginner skills track right next to the venue site and it got a ton of use! It was dusty, but that didn't stop the little groms from hitting the rollers, tables, berms, and small drops. It was in constant use throughout the weekend.

As the event continues to grow in popularity, do you envision the need to temporarily enforce a directional system throughout the network?
Event or not, that is something I'd like to see happen on the trail system, or at the very least make more trails directional. Allocating certain trails to either climbing or descending only will obviously will help with the flow system-wide all season long. Some weekends here are crazy busy; actually most weekends are, and I'm starting to see the need to make directional trails a policy. But we first need to have some more discussions with our Trails Advisory Committee about it. To designate the entire system directionally just for the festival would be a huge undertaking logistically, and would require a crazy amount of signage.

What do you think the Kingdom Trails represents to the rest of the northeast?
I think we represent collaboration. We have over 60 private landowners who let us use their land to provide this trail system. We have an entire community behind us, that helps support what we have going on here. Sure, we have some amazing trails, but there is amazing riding everywhere. What sets us apart is the people: the landowners, locals, visitors, businesses, and the entire KT staff that work hard to make sure that the area is the best it can be with all of the positives we bring. Generating revenue for an entire region just from mountain biking is a model so many people want to replicate, but very it's hard to do. A lot needs to go right, but if it does you can see from what we have going on here that it can be an amazing thing.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Long, dusty, and hot rides are often best concluded with a few scoops of Vermont-made ice cream. It's science.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Wildflower Inn owner Jim O'Reilly wants to make sure his grandson understands the science behind it all.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Nitrogenated iced coffee is a trend that needs to catch on.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Yakima dishing out some rack envy to any and all passersby.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Pedros was on hand to help keep bikes looking fresh throughout the weekend.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Ella Skalwold oversees an ongoing game of cornhole for Five Ten as contestants toss for some new shoes.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Is that a regulation bag of sand?

NEMBA Fest 2016
Brendon Voelker might have been the busiest wrench/demo attendant all weekend, as Pivots were a hot commodity here.
NEMBA Fest 2016
How can you not feel charitable when your service is met with such creativity?

NEMBA Fest 2016
Fresh new digs for The Village Sport Shop! This might be the most enviable locale for a bike shop anywhere on the east coast.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Espresso bar and beer tap with a helluva view from the new locale.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Several works of art will be permanently installed along KTA bike trails or outside area businesses.
NEMBA Fest 2016
That is a serious "to-do" list.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Burke Mountain watches over the festivities.





Lilias Ide, Operations Manager for the Kingdom Trails Association





What is the value for KTA to partner with NEMBA and hold the event on the Kingdom Trails?
NEMBA brings a solid group of volunteers and devoted members from across New England as well as strong Industry relations. Kingdom Trails and the surrounding businesses benefit from the exposure of all that the area has to offer to so many people. Over the years, KT and NEMBA have have settled into the roles that have worked best, which has strengthened our partnership and made it possible to grow the event.

What would you like to see happen in the future for NEMBA Fest? Do you think it can continue to grow, or do you guys need to cap the attendance?
NEMBA Fest's growth in popularity is due to so many factors! There's the amazing venue at The Wildflower Inn being a gorgeous open field with 360 views set smack dab in the middle of a 100 mile network of really great mountain biking trails for all ability levels. The location and range of trails options make it a very family friendly event which people really love. The Industry support has been a factor also! With over 80 vendors and several supporting sponsors including Pedro's Bike Care as the Title, this is the largest mountain bike event on the East Coast and the best opportunity to demo a bike or find out what's new in the MTB world. In addition, we try to think of everything so that we'll have something for everyone: clinics, group rides, rockin' music, raffles, trials demos, games, yoga, massage, coffee, sushi, art...you name it! Last but not least, the support that the community gives to this event can be felt. It takes over 200 volunteers and 23 full time staff members for weeks leading up to the Fest to make the 3 day event happen. That time is given happily and I think that the participants feel the hospitality.

What did you enjoy most about NEMBA Fest this year?
The very best part was just how happy everyone was. The feedback on all sides was that it was an epic event. More than one person actually told me that they found the experience to be life changing! Seth Brosnan from Cannondale sent us this feedback: “I am humbled and impressed by the sheer magnitude of such a spectacular event. This was the most impactful thing I have ever been a part of in 18 years. My team and I were blown away by the hospitality, professionalism and kindness that was shown by all to all at NEMBA Fest. I wish we could do it again this weekend!"

The best town ever East Burke VT surely is in the running. Get yourself to the Kingdom Trails and sample the goods

NEMBA Fest 2016
Kids of all ages were crushing out loops around the pumptrack/skills area/dual slalom course.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Shimano led a series of very popular night rides on Friday and Saturday.

NEMBA Fest 2016
The expo was a busy place from sun up to sun down.

NEMBA Fest 2016
East Burke's population increased 5-fold over the course of the weekend.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Chasing the last bit of sunlight is a favorite pastime among many riders.

NEMBA Fest 2016
The beer tent was well lit, and well attended throughout the weekend.
NEMBA Fest 2016
Vermont based, Irish punk rockers the Copouts slayed the crowd on Saturday night.

NEMBA Fest 2016
Just as sure as the sun will set tonight, it will rise again tomorrow and NEMBA Fest will be back at the Kingdom Trails in 2017, from June 16-18.



Interested in making it out to NEMBA Fest next year? More information is available here.

Interested in becoming a member of the New England Mountain Bike Association? More information is available here.

All of the information you need and more on the Kingdom Trails Association right here.

Looking for a place to stay with your family, or a large group of riders? Check out the High Meadows Condominiums.


MENTIONS: @briceshirbach / @kingdomtrails



Must Read This Week

18 Comments

  • + 12
 I'll take a fatty please....
  • + 5
 Its very very green. Living in the desert, I no longer trust earth that is covered with so much vegetation. I like it bare and naked. Every grain of sand, pebble crag and gorge open for all to see. I mean what are they trying to cover up with all that grass and those trees anyway. Otherwise nice job! Love your Maple Syrup!
  • + 3
 There's something they aren't telling us
  • + 5
 There's no ground under there, man. It's just weird green shit all the way down.
  • + 1
 as someone who spent 30+ years in the northeast I can say it ain't for sissies - very humid hot summers and brutal bitter cold winters. I do miss the lush beautiful green environment though
  • + 3
 Every year 20 of us rent a house and ride for 4 days straight, we eat, drink, and ride bikes, no wait... we ride bikes, eat, and drink. It has now called MTB Christmas in our circle and it's one of the best times of the year. No snow, just loam, berms, buds, and brews. We have such a good time that we don't even go to the festival most of the time... now go out an make your own MTB Christmas
  • + 1
 I've started doing that with friends at university. We actually do the 4-hour trek from Ottawa to East Burke, then mountain bike for half a week while forgetting out ever-increasing stress levels due to University.
  • + 3
 Another awesome time at Nemba Fest this year! One word about the directional trails thing. Burnham Down needs to be directional. I don't understand why anyone would want to climb that trail, and when you have hundreds of feet of wooden bridges that are only wide enough for 1 bike, there's a problem. I think people see it on a trail map and have no clue they're riding it the wrong way. It's called Burnham Down for a reason!
  • + 2
 There is (or used to be) a sign at the bottom that read "Burnham Up."
Burnham can get a bit clogged up on busy weekends, but is a great technical climb that keeps ascending riders off of the mountain road. I climb it more than I descend due to its proximity to Moose Alley and Shire.
Burnham will eventually get rerouted or replaced. When it was built, KT was constrained in where it could be located by outside forces. The long (narrow) bridges became a necessary evil as it's so wet in there. My understanding is that KT will have more freedom to build it properly next time, which will mean far fewer bridges.
  • + 1
 @cdussault: I see the reason for wanting to climb it when looking at the map. To get to Moose Alley and Shire you need to take that trail, or take the road. Good to hear that it will get a reroute, but I hope all the bridges remain in place. There was a lot of work put into it and it's an awesome ride!

Thanks c.
  • + 5
 Looks like a great time. Well done on the coverage, PB!
  • + 5
 Can you even use "best" and "schwag" in the same sentence??
  • + 3
 schwag is different than swag Wink .. nobody wants schwag
  • + 2
 Damn I wish I was there--broken wrist is no fun
  • + 1
 Looks like an excellent time!
  • + 1
 Nembafest? You mean Mountain Bike Christmas?!?!
  • + 1
 Love KT, was bummed I couldn't make it to nembafest this year.
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