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Rain stinks, but ATVs flying through the air don’t.

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

CHISHOLM — Rain stinks, but ATVs flying through the air don’t.

A new addition to the St. Louis County Fair this year, the “ATV Big Air Tour Show,” lets fair attendees witness the Guetter brothers — Derek and Jon — do stunts with their ATVs up close.

“When we get to do these arenas where people are so up close and personal to what we’re doing you can really hear them through your helmet,” Derek said. “That’s actually more fun than riding the big stadiums because you’re so far away from the crowds.”

Sandwiched between the indoor art exhibitions and the horses, the Guetter brothers took off from outside the rodeo ring to bridge the 75-foot gap between two large ATV ramps meant for jumps. Worries of rain caused them to start the 3:30 p.m. show a little bit earlier.

A small crowd witnessed the Guetters do practice laps. By the time they started doing more difficult tricks, the bleachers were packed.

When it comes to tricks, the action sport of ATV has an interesting vernacular. Jon and Derek performed tricks like the “superman,” the “can-can” and the “heart attack.” For anyone not familiar with the tricks, these are synonyms for different ways to contort your body in the air to make jumping an ATV that much more intriguing (or terrifying) for viewers.

One trick called the “holy man” saw Derek go spread eagle in the air, let the ATV go past him enough to grab the seat and pull himself to the handlebars.

“We’ve been doing this long enough now where it’s not as scary anymore, but obviously there’s a lot of risk in it,” Derek said. “A lot of years of trial-and-error.”

The crowd learned later that they have their own movie that showcases the crew’s stunts called “Butter: All Moto Flavored.” The title is ironic, not only because of it’s reverse personification but because Derek and his yellow ATV actually looked like a weird chunk of butter flung through the air.

Meanwhile, Jon matched Derek for nearly every one of his moves. They’ve been touring for over 13 years, and each has their own bag of tricks.

They’re not swapping backflips anymore (search “Guetter backflips” on YouTube to see what I mean), but there’s still flickers of friendly competition between them.

“To do this with my older brother, I think that’s the biggest part,” Derek said. “If he’s nervous, or if I’m nervous, we can talk each other through it.”

Not that anyone was noticing, but their flight against the backdrop of Chisholm taconite tailings and coniferous trees was downright serene. It’s such a shame then that Friday was so rainy, something the Guetters were nervous about.

They weren’t nervous enough to hold back from some of their most fun and complex material, though.

The final few tricks were done in tandem — sometimes bumping one another right before they went full throttle into the ramp. They were nothing short of spectacular, both riders at different parts in the air doing different tricks.

Immediately after the show, in spite of the rain, a flock of young fans went to meet the Guetter fans at their merchandise booth. There they signed T-shirts, copies of their movies and other merchandise fans wanted to buy.

Twenty minutes after the show, the line had just started to die down.

Thirty minutes after the show a kid was waving an autographed poster at his dad. The kid’s dad was talking to Derek and John about the stock manifold in their machines, and occasionally they had to pause to sign even more memorabilia.

“Thirteen years, that’s a long run to be doing the same thing,” Derek said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting to travel, but people don’t see the stuff where you’re scared to death ... but now I’m so grateful we stuck it out.”

The most surprising turn of the event had nothing to do with the wheelers. It was how down-to-earth Derek and Jon seemed. In contrast to some of the ATV stars who thrive off adrenaline, Derek talked about the way he approaches a jump in terms of his safety.

“You know, the hardest part is you can’t be thinking about what goes wrong,” he said. “A lot of the part is we’ve been doing this for so long that if something does go wrong, you have to know immediately what you’re going to do.

“If you’re thinking about it, it’s probably going to happen. For the most part, it just comes down to confidence and just knowing what you’re doing, trusting the machine.

“I was back flipping there for a few years — you lose so much sleep worrying about what you’re doing ... the less you have to think about that stuff and have fun with it the more confident you are, and just makes your job a little bit easier.”

As with any action sport rider Derek has some scars from crashes. He had an ugly crash a few years back where he broke his femur and “tore (his) shoulder apart.” He also said he has nerve damage up and down his stomach and no longer has any feeling there.

“After that happens, you really start to think ‘Wow, is it really worth doing?’” he said.

But a role as a stunt double for the movie “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” brought him back into the tour, which he and his brother seem to love doing the most.

“We kind of got the motivation to do this again because for the most part when you do something for fun and you start doing it for money, it kind of wears out the significance of what you’re doing,” Derek added.

The Guetters have three more shows today — at 1:30, 4:30 and 8 p.m. — before they head off to the Tall Ships Festival in Duluth. After that it’s a few more tours in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania before they plan another new tour.

Derek and Jon Guetter wanted to thank the St. Louis County Fair for letting them perform.

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