By Randy Putt
My passion for 'off-roading' started in 2008, shortly after I purchased a new 2008 Jeep JK Unlimited. Granted, when I bought my Jeep I had no intention of getting it off-road, it was just another SUV in a long line of SUV's I've owned over the years; yep just another mall crawler! For some reason though, this one was different, maybe it was because this was my first jeep, maybe it was just that I needed some adventure in my life, whatever the reason, I decided to look for a local group that could get me off-road and show me the ropes. I joined the Christian Crawlers 4x4 club in early 2008 and by the end of the year I was elected as club president for 2009! I would go on to make every monthly meeting and trail run for the next eight years and served as club president six of those years and vice president for one.

In 2011, as I was researching off-road trailers, I ran across a group called Central Overland and was intrigued by the idea of overland travel. Central Overland was sponsoring several 3-day trips a year through the Ozark National Forest and I decided to give it a try. The rest as they say... Fast forward to 2014 when I decided to purchase a J30 top for my jeep and attend the Overland Expo West. Little did I know that when I returned from that trip, I would think often about the expo and wonder if there would ever be enough interest in the central US to support an overland related event. Well, last year, as I saw overland related facebook groups popping up in states all around me (Arkansas), I decided to start an organization called Natural State Overland with the purpose of hosting an expo style event in 2017.

Rendezvous in the Ozarks was held October 20-22nd, 2017 at Mulberry Mountain Lodge and campground on 650 acres nestled in the beautiful Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. The purpose of the Rendezvous was just that, to gather like-minded folks to share their passion for the overland lifestyle. The plan was to combine the opportunity to experience some of the trails in the beauty of the fall months with the chance to visit with onsite vendors displaying products that catered to the overland community. Also giving the chance to attend presentations on topics of interest such as basic first aid, off-roading 101, navigation 101, dutch oven cooking, photography, recovery gear, basic winching, off-road safety, Tread Lightly principles, and much more.

Not having any idea what kind of attendance we might expect for the first year of an event of this kind we hoped for at least 50 rigs, and set a goal of 100. Online registration started at the end of June and by early September we reached our goal of 100 rigs. By the time the event rolled around, we had 163 rigs and over 300 people from eleven states attending the first annual Rendezvous in the Ozarks! While everything didn't go as planned, everyone enjoyed meeting like minded folks, checking out all the different rig and trailer builds, visiting with some great vendors, and learning a little about various overland related topics, not to mention winning some of the over $5000 worth of vendor donated raffle items. This included, two roof top tents, two 12v portable refrigerators, and a 9500lb winch!

If you would like to learn more about Natural State Overland's Rendezvous in the Ozarks, or some of the great vendors that helped make this event a success check out our website or our Facebook page.