On the website for the Arctic Man Classic, a five-day downhill ski-snowmobile race in wilderness Alaska, prospective visitors for the 2014 event are told that they are welcome to bring their own couches, but they must take them home when they leave. “No burning or putting couches in the Dumpsters,” the site admonishes–it’s a safety hazard. It might seem like a bizarre request, but when you realize that there is a 13,000-person, hard-core fan base that comes back to the event year after year and that the fans park their Barcaloungers out in the snow in a massive tailgate, the warning makes a lot more sense.
Adam Richman, best known for traveling around the country eating ridiculous quantities of local delicacies in his hit show Man v. Food, has a new series on the Travel Channel called Fandemonium (the show premiered Sunday July 14), where he visits events like the Arctic Man Classic, Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire, and the Redneck Yacht Club in Florida, and gets to know their insanely dedicated fan communities.
Richman says he was interested in covering fan communities because of their boundless enthusiasm. “For me, as a kid who was on unemployment less than a decade ago, it’s thrilling to watch people celebrate something they love, to be part of something larger than themselves,” Richman explains. “The fans are the lifeblood of any culture, and it’s nice to be able to turn the camera on them. Not just on the athletes or superstars.”
With his background in cooking, Richman was also inspired by the culinary ingenuity of the fan cultures. At the Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tennessee, he watched a woman make quick-rise brownies on the dashboard of her car. At the Arctic Man Classic, Richman thought there would be mostly burgers and hot dogs–it was so cold out, how could the cooking be creative? He was surprised and excited to find people serving only what they had caught or hunted themselves, including crab, caribou, and even moose nose.
But their ingenuity isn’t just with food. It’s also with gear. In addition to those couches, Arctic Man attendees lug in hot tubs. At Laconia Motorcycle Week, Richman met a carpenter who made a “sweet wooden bike” by hand that was so elaborate that it was street legal. At Bonnaroo, someone hand-built a geodesic dome, just to use during the four-day festival. “That’s a kind of passion, too,” Richman explains.
What works about Richman as a host is that he is never harsh and would never mock, say, a dorky participant of a Renaissance “faire,” like the one he visits in Waxahachie, Texas. “I come at them with no agenda, no commentary, just open-hearted appreciation,” Richman says. Perhaps you’ll appreciate their unbridled joy, too, in the attached slide show.