MTTS 2016 – MINI’s Massive Traveling Festival Grows Up While Staying (Mostly) the Same

The 2016 version of MINI Takes the States is not just the largest of all time, participation has more than doubled since the rally last hit the road in 2014. Just consider a few of the figures: 300 plus people are going the whole way. Over 650 people showed up to one of the most remote locations on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this past Thursday night. So big was the crowd that it took over an hour for for the caravan to leave St. Ignace on its way to Green Bay, WI. And the charitable component has skyrocketed as well. MTTS has blown away expectations, hitting its fundraising goal of $800,000 for Feeding America® only half way through the trip.

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A lot has been written on the social web around MTTS, its growth and the unique demographics that the US sees at these events vs the rest of the world. But here’s the thing. As much as MTTS has changed, its core has not. There’s still the same excitement in meeting other MINI owners and seeing their unique MINIs. There’s still the same thrill in speaking and having an open dialogue with MINI designers, product specialists and executives. And the backdrop of it all is still there – the grandeur of the American countryside.

We’ve attended every MTTS in various ways over the years and the 2016 version is more of the same but larger, better organized and more appealing to more folks. What’s gone? The intimacy of the smaller out of the way stops that might have only seen 50 MINIs 5-7 years ago is certainly gone for good. And there’s a broader crowd that in some ways have less in common outside of MINI ownership. In other words, in 2016 there’s less of a chance that the person in line behind you at MTTS is as much of a gear-head as you are. But that’s not necessarily something new. MTTS and MINIs in general are famous for drawing people to these events who haven’t grown up with petrol in their veins. For many folks MTTS and MINI events in general represent the first time an automobile has initiated anything other than the drama of maintenance.

Some have pointed to the number of handicap license plates as a change to MTTS. But to our mind empty nesters and retirees have always made up a big percentage of folks who can afford to take the time off to attend such a long event. If anything MTTS has gotten more varied with more families (four door MINIs help with this) and more folks below 40 attending for longer.

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MTTS has grown into a massive traveling MINI festival without losing what made it so endearing 10 years ago. It’s still designed and run by the same team that started it all. In our three days on the trip MTTS felt like a well oiled machine. No small feat given that the task has now grown to bringing at times over 1,000 MINIs across the country— a kudos to them.  And MINIUSA has designed each stop and route in a smart way to allow for plenty of deviation from the official plan. If you want to participate you can. If you’d prefer smaller groups you can easily break away and loosely follow the routes and attend the events that appeal to you.

With any rapid growth there are trade offs. MTTS 2016 features more time in queues and the anonymity of a crowd. But after witnessing the joy on the faces of hundreds of drivers as they honked and cheered their way out of Green Bay, there’s no denying that the MTTS spirit is alive and well.

  • MiniMaestro

    I had a blast this year. Was only able to do Detroit to Green Bay, but it rekindled why I enjoyed my first MTTS two years ago. To me the events, both morning and evening, are just the cherries on top of the cake that is the drive to each location. That’s where you make discoveries, find new friends, make people smile and ask “Why are there so many MINIs!?” and just discover all that the US has to offer. The events get the glamour, but I reminisce about the journey more. I thought that MINI USA did another fantastic job. I’m really curious how much longer this can last… the event is getting SO big, and the investment must be enormous… plus sales are way down. Every year has to be better than the last, but can you keep it growing so that people keep coming back? So far they have, but at what point do you call it done and go out on top? I hope we see an MTTS2018 and if it comes anywhere near Canada I will definitely make an appearance! Thanks for your coverage and I’m glad you had a great time too!

  • CMMC_Steve

    I was able to make the first 1/2 of MTTS this year and had a great time.. I’ve also been on parts of all the prior MINI Takes the States events. Yes the lines were long, and some of the surprise and delight stops were overrun, but MINIUSA has done a fantastic job planning interesting routes and venues. The food was very good, and event check-in and raffles were great. I got a chance to meet and hang out with a ton of really nice people. and spend 7 days knowing that whenever I waved to a MINI I would get a smile and wave back. Huge thanks to all the MINI staff who worked so hard to put on this great experience!!

  • PedroT

    910 of us are going all the way, not 300 🙂

    • That number came from someone at MINI. I had heard 900 as well.

  • LTLMCPE

    I appreciate the “review” Gabe. This is the first one I’ve missed that has come close to Chicagoland so it’s nice to see perspective from another that has been around since the first one. Your thoughts confirm much of what my take was in reading many of the various updates I’ve been following on MTTS 2016.