It doesn't seem to matter whether it's Stutz Bearcats or door knockers, people who share the same interests want to hang out together and celebrate their hobby. Such was the case last June when Ford Bronco owners from all over the U.S. descended on Murphy, North Carolina, for the Third Annual East Coast Bronco Roundup (ECBR). It was a wild weekend of four-wheeling, camaraderie, and general Bronco worship that was sponsored in part by Ford Motor Company.
The ECBR was the brain child of Mark Shainman from Arlington, Virginia, who's a senior research analyst at a large I.T. firm, as well as a Bronco owner. He pondered why all the cool Bronco get-togethers were out in the western United States and came to the conclusion that it was just because no one had tried to organize any such activities in the eastern United States. So, in 1999, Shainman simply put the word out that the first-ever ECBR would be held at the Upper Tellico ORV area in Tennessee. That inaugural event drew more than 20 Broncos and became the catalyst for explosive growth the following year.
It was obvious to Shainman that the ECBR was going to grow rapidly, so he retained Randy Thomas of Performance Unlimited in Hartford, Wisconsin (another Bronco owner), to construct a Web site detailing the 1999 event and offer information on the 2000 ECBR. He also joined a group of Bronco owners to form the East Coast Bronco Registry (an online brotherhood that now totals more than 800 Bronco owners).
By this point, the event had caught the attention of Ford Motor Company, and it offered a formal corporate sponsorship of the 2000 ECBR by donating Motorcraft gift certificates and buying dinner for all participants. All of these elements combined to make the 2000 event a huge success, drawing more than 70 Broncos. But the growth had only begun, and 2001 would shatter all previous records and make the ECBR one of the premier Bronco gatherings in the country.
Third Time's the Charm
The 2001 event saw the ECBR's impressive growth pattern continue, and with more than 150 Broncos from 10 states in attendance, it was the largest yet. The two-day schedule of events included a full plate of activities, including a rock challenge competition, an RTI competition, a show 'n' shine, and, of course, loads of trail rides in the infamous Upper Tellico ORV area, where difficulty levels range from easy to hard-core. A deluge of rain on Friday did nothing to quell the excitement of the participants; scores of Broncos representing every year of production anxiously hit the trail.
About 80 percent of the trucks in attendance were early Broncos ('66-to-'77), and you'd think that the owners would mollycoddle a vehicle that hasn't been in production for 24 years. But no, these folks pushed their vehicles right to the limit. Part of the reason is that the Bronco's popularity has increased so much that many companies offer easy-to-get replacement parts, thus eliminating a parts shortage for these durable trucks.
Bronco owners are intensely proud of their trucks and are more than willing to show off what they can do, even though the trucks are rapidly increasing in value with every passing day. We saw a variety of Broncos, from bone-stock '66 models to cutting-edge, trail-ready machines. There were also a good number of fullsize Broncos in attendance, and they got right in on the trail action as well.
One of the surprises of the weekend was the attendance of a number of Ford staff. And with them, they brought a bunch of test trucks, including a few Ford vehicles sporting super-secret off-road mods that are subject to ongoing tests. The Ford folks joined ECBR participants on the trails as well as at event headquarters, where they were subjected to a lot of good-natured prodding about returning the Bronco to production. You have to admit, with the popularity of retro vehicles such as the Thunderbird, perhaps this would be a good time to introduce a retro bobtail Bronco.
The Bottom Line
One of the most amazing things about the East Coast Bronco Roundup is that it's totally free to Bronco owners. This is most astounding when you consider that there was more than $30,000 in prizes given away at Saturday's free cookout, which was sponsored by Ford Motor Company. So it's practically like getting paid to attend. In addition to those items donated by Ford, the prize lineup included a plethora of stuff from K Bar S Bronco, Wild Horses, James Duff, Warn, Superwinch, Performance Unlimited, D&C Extreme, Tractech, Goodyear, Bestop, 4-Wheel Parts Wholesalers, and many, many others. The entire event was planned and executed by volunteers who own Broncos. So it is truly an event by Bronco owners for Bronco owners.
For More Information:
The East Coast Bronco Roundup will return to the Upper Tellico ORV area in June 2002, and it promises to continue its celebration of the Bronco in grand form. For more details on the event, contact Mark Shainman at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the East Coast Bronco Registry's official Web site at www.performanceunlimit ed.com/ecbr.