Those of us over a certain age still remember getting up early on Saturday mornings to sit way too close to the television and watch cartoons for hours, often while having a bowl of sugary cereal with cookies on the side, if our folks were still asleep.

As good as the shows were—“Banana Splits,” “The Jackson 5ive” and “Tom and Jerry” all come to mind—the commercials were also often really awesome.

Especially this one: “Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY (insert echoed voice here). Monster Trucks! Roaring to the Capital Center this weekend!

Don’t you dare miss it!”

At the time, most of my friends and I yearned to go to every monster truck event. We wanted to be monster truck drivers when we grew up.

We just thought it was so crazy that it was cool.

The funny thing is: Many of us still do. And both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, you can head to the Capital One Arena (formerly the Verizon Center) in Washington and see ridiculously huge trucks crushing cars, flying through the air, driving on two wheels in reverse and yes, even flipping over and crashing.

That includes the most well-known monster truck of all time: Grave Digger.

The original beast, with the world-renowned green and black flames and skulls in its distinctive paint job, will be on hand to compete for points—and the roar of the fans.

“It really is pure adrenaline,” Grave Digger’s driver, Randy Brown, told Weekender. “There’s nothing like seeing a 10,000-pound monster truck gun it and jump across the arena.”

Brown, who has been to Washington twice before as a professional driver, is currently No. 1 in the world in the Monster Jam Arena Championship Series.

Hot on his trail, however, is Stinger Unleashed.

“Yeah, he’s No. 2 right behind me,” he laughed. “But there’s also Scooby-Doo, Dragon—anyone on our tour is battling every time.”

Those unfamiliar with monster trucks can get an idea of the pure showmanship of these events by the vehicle names.

And the truth is, these things look as cool in 2019 as they did ... let’s just say in an earlier era.

Dragon, for instance, has a paint job of green scales and orange flames. Across its roof are two long horns—not painted on, but actual physical horns.

And oh, yes, actual dragon wings.

Sweet.

“For those who’ve never been, you just gotta try it,” said Brown. “A 10,000-pound vehicle—you can feel it, you can smell it, you can feel the crushing of the cars.

“It’s incredible,” he adds. “It will hook you.”

In addition to the weight, these roaring behemoths are loud—and by loud, we mean really loud.

They are 1,600 horsepower. Translation: You’d better bring earplugs.

Or sound-baffling headphones. Or both.

Brown says that’s why it’s essential for the crowd to go crazy. He wants to, even needs to, hear the crowd.

For as much as he feels and hears the roar of the truck, he says he also feels the roar of the crowd—even when he’s 30 or 40 feet in the air in a truck bigger than nature ever intended.

“Yes, it’s really loud in the truck, but I can hear the crowd when they go over the top crazy,” he said.

It makes him go farther, faster and badder than ever.

So, Monster Jam fans, the performance is up to you.

Audiences this weekend will have the opportunity to meet Brown, along with all the other drivers, and get up close and personal with the trucks, in a pre-show event called the Pit Party.

That starts at 10:30 a.m. both days, before the competitions that begin at 1 p.m. A Pit Pass costs a bit extra ($15 additional), but for a chance to get your picture taken with a professional driver in front of a monster truck?

As The Who once put it: I call that a bargain—the best I ever had.

In fact, one of the nice things for all of us who still feel that thrill of excitement about monster trucks—and who now have a bit more income than we did when we were 7 years old—is that it’s very doable, price-wise, to attend.

Tickets start at $20. When you consider what you’d pay for a bad movie in a crowded theater with no heart-pounding thrills at all, that seems pretty reasonable.

On Saturday, there’s also an evening show at 7 p.m.

So basically, absolutely no reason to miss this one.

“It’s a family-friendly event,” said Brown. “And it gets you so pumped.”

As for Grave Digger itself, he’s confident—in the freestyle segment, the racing segment, and even in the new two-wheel skills competition, where drivers do front-tire wheelies in forward and reverse.

“Obviously this is a unique job,” he laughed. “But our driving styles on the Grave Digger team are intense.

“We’ve got a ‘don’t-care’ attitude,” he added. “We want to put on a great show for the fans, to please the crowd and to push that $250,000 truck to its limits and beyond.”

Dave Smalley is a Fredericksburg- based freelance writer

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