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How Gillett Became the ATV Capital of the World

From the ATV Capital of the World in Gillett, riders have access to over 450 miles of fully interconnected scenic riding. That alone qualifies the city as the ATV Capital of the World! Yet there’s more to the story. Here’s a look at the history behind the ATV Capital of the World trademark.

In 2006, Gillett leaders were asking themselves how to attract people to the community. They hit upon the idea of promoting ATV riding.

ATV on ATV Adventure course

ATV Adventure Weekend
ATV riders were already drawn to the community because of the area’s trails and the ATV Adventure Weekend festivals held in the city. ATV Adventure Weekend, launched with the aid of grants totaling nearly $80,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, included a variety of contests and activities. Riders participated in ATV pulls, poker runs, drag races, egg rodeos, parades, and the X-treme Challenge course.

ATV-friendly community
Gillett was already known as an ATV-friendly community in 2007. Its city streets were open to ATV riders, and retailers and restaurants welcomed the extra business generated by ATV riding. Plus, a lot of Gillett’s residents were behind the wheel. A total of 320 ATVs were registered to residents living within the Gillett zip code of 54124, accounting for about one out of every four people in the city.

ATV trademark is secured
In November 2006, the Destination Marketing Committee, composed of about 12 community leaders, applied for the “ATV Capital of the World” federal trademark. The trademark was awarded in April 2007 by the U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks. The event was celebrated later that year with an ATV parade from the corner of Main and Richmond streets to Sportsmen’s Lodge and Grill (later renamed Spirits of Gillett) where an ATV rests on the rooftop. New “Welcome to Gillett” banners were unfurled, and Mayor Tom Lietz read a proclamation announcing the city’s new trademark.

ATV club manages trail systemRiding ATV through woods
Excitement was running high! The Rail Runners ATV Club was developing 20 acres west of the city into a year-round ATV park, but the club later folded and the park closed. Although a setback, for sure, the local snowmobile club came on board to support ATV riding in the community. The Gillett Sno & ATV Riders maintain 18 miles of trails through Gillett, Underhill and Maple Valley. These trails connect with the 89-mile Nicolet State Trail that runs through Oconto, Florence, and Forest counties and the Nicolet National Forest.

Campground, showers & restrooms
In 2013, the city developed Nicolet Trail Campground, located at the start of the ATV trail. Its campsites are large enough to accommodate ATV/UTV trailers. In 2019, the city installed a bathroom and shower building at Zippel Park. The facility has two unisex restrooms, each with two stalls and two showers for people using the trails.

Future of ATVing
ATVs have evolved over time – from fast, noisy machines to today’s quieter and more versatile vehicles used for recreational riding through the wilderness and for tasks on the farm, in the woods or in the yard.

The city of Gillett renewed its ATV Capital of the World trademark in 2016 for the next decade. Even with the trademark, Gillett has an unofficial status as the ATV capital, but it gives the community a rallying point for its tourism marketing and promotions, plus an advantage over other wanna-be ATV capitals.