When starting a new event, there are always growing pains from figuring out what people want and don’t want, how to best make use of the location, how to get the word out to the right people, and quite a few other things. Jeep enthusiasts just want to see the latest products on market, hang out with other Jeepers, play in the dirt with their Jeeps, and have a lot of fun in the process. That’s not too difficult to figure out. However, when other events in the area have been around for years and you’re the new guy on the block, there’s always a learning curve differentiating your event from others.
For the inaugural Jeepin’ Beach Jam, one thing promoters Mark Hess and Matt McKenzie of JBJ Productions had on their side was the location. You can’t go wrong with Panama City Beach, Florida. The Eastern U.S. home of spring-break party fun and games also has plenty to offer Jeepers looking to party, and the Jeepin’ Beach Jam promoters seemed to hit the right buttons their first time out.
Jeepin’ Beach Jam began May 11, 2016, with an unofficial kickoff party at Panama City’s Ms. Newby’s and then an after-party at Harpoon Harry’s. Ms. Newby’s and Harpoon Harry’s are local establishments known for promoting a fun environment, and both would play a big role the rest of Jeepin’ Beach Jam.
Thursday, May 12, presented event vendors an opportunity to get set up for the weekend, while also allowing Jeepin’ Beach Jam attendees a chance to check-in and register for the event. The “official” Jeepin’ Beach Jam kickoff party took place that night at “The Barn” at Wicked Wheel. Harpoon Harry’s was again the site of the day’s after-party.
The event really revved up on Friday, May 13, with the opening of the Vendor Village at Aaron Bessant Park. Vendors had Jeeps, Jeep components and accessories, and everything in between for attendees to peruse. Vendor reps were on hand to answer any questions or concerns about any components or accessories attendees wanted to add to their Jeep.
Vendor Village was also home to live music, the Ebro Poker Room brought its “School of Poker” to teach attendees the game, and there was even an oyster bar, which we visited several times during the event. There was also a Classic and Military Jeep show at Pineapple Willy’s on Friday afternoon, prior to the show ’n’ shine at Hooters later that evening. Friday was also the first day of the Official Jeep Obstacle Playground, where attendees could test their Jeep’s off-road worthiness and also find potential shortcomings in their off-road game. Thankfully, if any shortcomings were found, a simple trip to the vendor village had answers for them. To close out Friday night, there was an outdoor movie at Aaron Bessant Park, and Harpoon Harry’s was again the site of the after-party.
Saturday, May 14, started off with the Workout Anytime Jeepin’ Beach Jam 5k run at St. Andrews State Park. Though we weren’t one of them, 105 runners showed up bright and early to get the day off to a fast start. The day’s festivities mirrored that of Friday, until the afternoon “Tribute to Jeep History” parade, and the evening concert featuring Dallas Hendrix and Aaron Kantor, Mini Kiss, and headliner Great White. All three capped off a great day of Jeep festivities, especially Great White, who rocked the stage with its greatest hits.
One of the main attractions for Saturday was the crowning of the first-ever Miss Jeepin’ Beach Jam, which took place at Harpoon Harry’s. Starting with several contestants, the final three came down to Autumn Compton, Mattie Barwick, and Andrea Mitchell. After difficult discussions and a couple rounds of nitpicking, Mattie Barwick was crowned Miss Jeepin’ Beach Jam 2016.
With the 2016 being the first year for Jeepin’ Beach Jam, and considering how much fun everyone had, we can’t wait to see what next year’s Panama City Beach event has in store. Maybe we’ll see you there in 2017!
Jeeps took over the streets of Panama City Beach Saturday afternoon during the “Tribute to Jeep History” parade. The parade started on Powell Adams Road, turned onto Front Beach Road, and finished at Pier Park, an outdoor mall adjacent to the Jeepin’ Beach Jam Aaron Bessant Park location. Shoppers even lined up to check out all the Jeeps participating in the Jeepin’ Beach Jam parade.
This little man spent Jeepin’ Beach Jam handing out koozies for BC Custom MetalWorks. Both he and BC Custom MetalWorks crew stayed busy all weekend. BC turns metal into art, and event attendees had the opportunity to work with the guys to turn any of their ideas into metal. Every time we walked by BC’s display, the guys were working away with their on-site plasma cutters.
Panama City’s own Bay Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge had a large display of the newest Jeeps at the event for attendees to check out. A new Jeep Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, and Wrangler Unlimited were just a handful of vehicles Bay had at Jeepin’ Beach Jam.
Roger and Cristy from Elite 4x4 Off Road had Jeep accessories for sale at Jeepin’ Beach Jam, along with this Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Elite had Derrick Smith from Smith Paint and Restoration refinish several exterior accessories on the Rubi just in time for Jeepin’ Beach Jam. There’s no limit to what you can do to a Jeep, as Elite confirms with its Rubi.
Like every good Jeep event, Jeepin’ Beach Jam had an obstacle course on which attendees could play. The Gordiner Group designed and built the obstacle course on the property adjoining the back of Aaron Bessant Park. Jeepin’ Beach Jam promoters received the blessing of the city to build the obstacle course.
A Florida tradition is the regular consumption of oysters: raw, grilled, or steamed. The friendly folks at 30A Oyster always promise a great shucking time, and we sat down a couple times for a round of oysters to satisfy our hunger. Pop an oyster on a cracker, top it off with a little hot sauce, and you have some good eatin’.
Not only could you eat fresh oysters under the Vendor Village tent at Jeepin’ Beach Jam, you could also learn how to play poker. Ebro Poker Room brought its “School of Poker” to Jeepin’ Beach Jam to offer event attendees something a little different.
If you came of age in the ’80s or early ’90s, you have no doubt heard of the band Great White. The chance to hear them live at Jeepin’ Beach Jam was a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Great White played all of its greatest hits after Mini Kiss, and Dallas Hendrix and Aaron Kanter warmed up the stage.
The Friday afternoon of the event, there was a Classic and Military Jeep Reunion Meet at Pineapple Willy’s. Steve Belcher brought his Vietnam-era Willy’s, Bob Stopka brought his WWII-era Willy’s, and Matt Provow brought his ’55 Willy’s (Left). Provow, from Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, found his Willy’s on a Georgia hunting property. He bought it and took it home to enjoy and to attend event like Jeepin’ Beach Jam
The 4 Wheel to Heal crew was on hand at Jeepin’ Beach Jam to spread their message of helping our veterans. Specifically, 4 Wheel to Heal is dedicated to taking injured and disabled veterans off-roading, showing them the fun and enjoyment we all get out of taking our Jeeps off-road. If it helps a veteran be free of the everyday pain many of them endure, 4 Wheel to Heal has done its job.
Jeepin’ and fishing are like the sun and the beach: they go hand in hand. One thing about rod and reels, though, is that there isn’t a good way to stow them. Reel Rack has that issue covered. Basically a tire cover, you can carry four rods and reels using the Reel Rack, but if you’re able to get your Jeep close enough to the bank, you can make a cast, and leave the rod and reel in the rack while you sit and enjoy the surroundings.
After the Classic and Military Jeep Reunion Meet at Pineapple Willy’s, there was the Official Jeepin’ Beach Jam Jeep Show n’ Shine at the nearby Hooter’s. The Hooter’s parking lot was overloaded with Jeeps, as vehicles spilled over to adjoining parking lots as enthusiasts looked for a parking spot. The show brought traffic to a halt there were so many Jeeps and enthusiasts at the show. The show ’n’ shine presented an opportunity to catch up with friends, grab some food, and check out other Jeeps.
We caught up with Dawn and Jody Abbott from Kingston, Georgia, and their ’73 CJ-5 Super Jeep at Friday’s Classic and Military Jeep Reunion Meet. The Abbott’s outfitted the Jeep with a Chevy 350/TH 350 combination, Dana 20 transfer case, Dana 30 front, Dana 44 rear, and 3.73 gears. The suspension is made up of a Skyjacker lift kit, Rancho shocks, Cragar 15x10 wheels, and BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires. Just in case the Abbotts need to make a quick exit, their Super Jeep boasts a NOS 175-shot nitrous system, as well. Now that is a Super Jeep.
The folks at Outlaw LED were busy installing light kits on various Jeeps all weekend. Outlaw LED has a ton of lighting options available to help light up the trail on your next trip to the woods. If you’re unsure how to install any of its products, having Outlaw LED install them for you at an event like Jeepin’ Beach Jam is the next best thing.
Many events leave the kids out of the fun, but Jeepin’ Beach Jam is not one of those events. With 900-plus Jeeps in attendance, along with more than 3,000 spectators, it’s safe to say a lot of kids were in attendance. To keep them from being bored, Toys R Us had a special area roped off for young Jeepers looking to have a little fun of their own.