There appears to be a bit of a rivalry among the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival (BJHF) and Jeep Beach to dominate the east with the ultimate Jeep invasion. In 2011, BHJF set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Parade of Jeeps in Butler, Pennsylvania, with 1,106 vehicles. This year, 1,846 Jeeps packed the Daytona International Speedway on April 26 and outdid the BHJF record. One point Deep South! After thorough research and hours reading other riveting records, it was discovered Florida is also home to the Guinness World Record holder for the Farthest Distance Skateboarded by a Goat. Happie, who lives in Fort Myers, rode 118 feet for 25 seconds on a skateboard.
Jeep Beach 2015, the annual event hosted by the Mid Florida Jeep Club, has been gaining popularity for 12 years, cultivating a specific style of 4-Lo fun that is different from the gargantuan rockcrawling available out west. Since 2003, the club has enlisted a volunteer staff to bring the world a unique event that focuses on Jeeps and their owners of all kinds. In a way, the five-day weekend was about letting the Jeep flag fly (there were many on the beach, each one bigger than the last).
Jeep Beach does not involve driving switchbacks, a champagne trail ride, or even muddin’. The overall focus of the event is the people, though there certainly were ways to get out Jeepin’. Much of the weekend took place right on the beach of Daytona Shores, where one could pay a small fee and park a been-around CJ next to a mall-worthy JK right on the sand and make friends. The manmade obstacle course, which was constructed right on the infield of the speedway, had three lines to pick and also pulled a steady draw, with long waits both on Friday and Saturday. Each Jeeper interpreted the course differently; some munched dirt, others rode while on the phone, and still others went slow and steady with a Selfie Stick.
Jeep Beach offered registrants a unique opportunity to lap the Daytona 500 track. On Sunday, those who opted to participate in the record-breaking attempt patiently awaited their turn to circle the speedway for a tally by the official, all-seeing Guinness recorder.
World record attempt or not, the rivalry between Jeep Beach and the Bantam Heritage Jeep Festival to throw the baddest Jeep-only weekend is far from over. Because Jeep Beach happens first, this year gives the Deep South two points if one considers the grilled cheese sandwiches at the Shores.
On June 12, 2016, the Bantam Heritage Jeep Festival will attempt to break the Jeep Beach record and bring the title home to Butler, the birthplace of Jeep. Also, BHJF will celebrate the 75th year of the original Jeep with a birthday bash.
Jeep Beach sure has a lot to offer: sun, sand, tan people with muscles, big tires, doors off, top down, sun . . . If BHJF brings cake (or Pennsylvania peach pie) and breaks the record for most Jeeps, the score may just be even.
[Ed. note: As we go to press, the Bantam festival has returned the challenge and upped its parade count to 2,420 Jeeps, the new record, but at least Florida still has that skateboarding goat record in the books.]
The five-day Jeep Beach event happens right in the center of the Daytona International Speedway. There Jeepers can drive on the track during the massive Jeep parade, take on the manmade obstacle courses, check out the vendors, or just kick back and catch some Florida sun from the infield.
The Mid Florida Jeep Club brings in tons of dirt to the infield of the Daytona International Speedway just to play. There are multiple manmade obstacle courses to get hung up on for wheelers with all levels of experience. From stock to heavily modified, Jeeps of all classes are invited to get in line.
Just getting your feet wet with the Jeep clan? This laidback atmosphere is great for making new friends and swapping stories about who’s doing what to their rig. Sons of Sumter Jeep Club (S.O.S.), like others, come as a group for this fun family weekend.
There are not many places left where it’s acceptable to drive right on the sand just because you can. You can park, go for a swim, or grab a cool drink with an umbrella to match the color of your Jeep at the comfortable host hotel, the Shores Resort.
Attending Jeep Beach is much like attending summer camp. Every year the number of familiar faces grows because there’s time to get to know one another. Donnie Roebuck, who has attended nearly every Jeep Beach and is an Ultimate Adventure alumnus, will always share a seat and a smile.
Although it’s called Jeep Beach, it is held at the Daytona International Speedway about 6 miles from the beach, but you can always drive to the surf during the show. The weather can be a bit balmy, but the weekend is about celebrating a shared passion.
Title sponsors Rugged Ridge and BFGoodrich brought lots to check out. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the parent company of Jeep, provided some of its 2015 concept vehicles for people to walk around, such as the Jeep Wrangler Africa.
Flags are not required to drive on the sand of Daytona Shores, but there was no shortage of them. A second impromptu Jeep show began on the beach as clubs and friends parked together and represented their personalities.
The proximity to the ocean creates an unmatched experience. Daytona is not famous for tough-as-nails trails, but it does have quite a few unique nuances. Beach driving for recreation may be a novelty, but it’s also accessible to everyone.
Attending a Jeep show far from home is a great way to learn new tricks. With the lack of boulders to conquer on the hard sand, sometimes creating other objects to climb is even more fun. So long as you know the Jeep you’re jumping on.
The tradition of the ever-growing Jeep parade closes down the official events of the weekend. After lapping the speedway’s track, no one really rushes to hit the road. Most of the Jeepers take toward the beach to wind down the events in a lazy Sunday fashion, until next year.
Omix-ADA, along with Rugged Ridge, displayed some of its newest options for accessories and modifications, such as the company’s Exo-Top, a soft-top and cargo rack combination. The row of vendors is a great place to talk to manufacturer reps and receive a hands-on demonstration as well as suggestions on other items that coincide nicely with your build.
The course is designed so that vehicles can attack their lines in rapid succession and with speed. Though no dramatic carnage occurred, the obstacles did provide real challenges. Spotters and support vehicles were vigilant and fastidious in assisting drivers during any sticky situation.
Only Jeeps are allowed in the infield of the speedway. Walking around the grassy parking area, you see Jeeps of every variety as far as the eye can see. This classic Willys Wagon really stood out, but there is something to check out for any type of 4x4 enthusiast.
Stock vehicles, like this Cherokee Trailhawk, had no trouble with ground clearance. With varying levels of difficulty, mounds and boulders provided fun according to the driver’s comfort level and the outfit of the vehicle.
The events at the speedway close their doors in the early evening so that patrons can attend mixers such as the SpiderwebShade Tiki Party. This wasn’t just a party though. Raffle tickets sold amounted to over $10,740 for the BlueRibbon Coalition, among other charities.
Tuesday through Thursday of this now five-day event involve a light schedule, with the highlight being a two-day scavenger hunt. Over the weekend the daylight hours focus on happenings at the speedway. The vendor booths are separated from the start of course by a small fence, therefore all the key events at the speedway are located in close proximity to one another.