It was a Jeep homecoming like no other. The third annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival was held June 14 to 16, 2013, in Butler, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the Jeep. The wildly popular event featured a new location, additional activities, and more family fun over Father's Day weekend.
A whopping 1,557 registered Jeeps from 31 states and Canada rolled in to Cooper's Lake Campground for the Festival. Thousands more Jeeps filled the parking lots for the three-day event that offered something for all types of Jeep aficionados, from those who appreciate military Jeeps of the 1940s to those who can't wait to go off-road in their lifted and accessorized Jeeps.
"We received fantastic feedback from the Jeepers who joined us this year," said Patti Jo Lambert, festival director. "More Jeeps participated than before, and we had about 16,000 people over the three days at Cooper's Lake, plus 20,000 who joined us for the Jeep Invasion street party in downtown Butler. It appears Jeep enthusiasts agree that celebrating the father of all Jeeps over Father's Day weekend is a great idea, and they can't wait to come back next year to make the Festival part of their holiday tradition."
The Festival expanded into three days this year to ensure more fun with family and friends, while celebrating the Jeep's birthplace. New additions like the Glacial Interpretive Driving Tour, Little Jeeper's Show 'n' Shine, expanded Show-'n'-Shine classes, Saturday night bonfire, and Father's Day Breakfast were great complements to the popular off-road playground, mud pit, rock crawl, on-site trail rides, WWII encampment, Mystery Road Rally, and more.
One of the highlights of the new location was bigger and better on-site trails that gave both stock and intermediate Jeep off-roaders the chance to challenge themselves and their Jeeps. Each trail was nearly triple the length of those offered at the previous location. Some Jeep owners who had properly equipped Jeeps even had the chance to try a few extreme obstacles on select trails.
The Festival offered more awards than ever before, too. In addition to trophies awarded for the Show-'n'-Shine and Ruff-'n'-Tuff competitions, top finishers in the Jeep Team Challenge and Mystery Road Rally could earn hardware too. A few Jeep clubs also partnered with the Festival and coordinated slow-crawl, RTI-ramp and teeter-totter competitions that gave recognition to the best male and female participant.
Because the Bantam Jeep is the world's original Jeep, created in Butler by the American Bantam Car Company in 1940, the Jeep's heritage plays a prominent role in the Festival. A World War II encampment highlighted how these off-road marvels helped win the war. Nearby, a history exhibit detailed how the Jeep was created in Butler. Adjacent to the exhibit was a not-to-miss display of Jeeps through the Decades–about 20 Jeeps representing each of the eight decades this popular vehicle was produced. Crowds packed the exhibit building to catch a glimpse of some rare vehicles. Some owners were even present to talk about the restoration, originality, or uniqueness of various Jeeps.
"It's always exciting to see the sheer number of Jeeps each year," said Lambert. "A walk through the Show 'n' Shine area is all it takes to understand just how many different Jeeps have been created over the past 70 years. Jeeps of all shapes, sizes, and colors are displayed and it's so much fun to talk to everyone about the passion each owner has for his or her Jeep."
Mark your calendar to attend the next Festival June 13 to 15, 2014. Check out the event's website, bantamjeepfestival.com to see highlights of the 2013 event. Be sure to register for the email list so you can be among the first to learn what is in store next year. If you love Jeeps, this is one place you need to be.