Shipping containers, oil refineries, and blacktop as far as the eye can see. With many only seeing New Jersey from an airplane window landing in Newark (or even worse, an episode of Jersey Shore on MTV), it’s no wonder New Jersey has a bad reputation. What many people don’t know is that New Jersey has lush farmlands; unique historic villages and berry farms amid vast oak-pine forests; extensive wetlands; and a 100-mile-plus stretch of surf from Sandy Hook to Cape May Point—where nothing connects the towns of the Jersey shore other than the shore itself.
New Jersey Jeep Invasion started in 2013 as a Jeep show and charity event hosted by the New Jersey Jeep Association on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey. In only a few short years the show had outgrown available space on the boardwalk and moved a little way south to Wildwood, New Jersey. The Wildwoods make up one of the biggest and widest public beaches in New Jersey, making it a perfect solution for a quick-growing show.
The event’s fifth incarnation was held June 16-18, 2017, and has become a favorite because it’s completely on the beach. You read that right. It’s on the beach, as opposed to at the beach. Not only were the participants’ Jeeps parked on the beach, but more than 75 vendors and a sand-tastic obstacle course were on the sand. Jeepers could show off their rig’s off-road capabilities while soaking up some rays. It’s not often you can walk an entire show barefoot.
We had the opportunity to chat with Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., who fit right in with the Jeep crowd wearing shorts and standing barefoot. When he was first approached with the idea of the show he is reported to have said, “Why would you want to have it on the boardwalk? It’s a Jeep show, and Jeeps belong on the beach.” The mayor added, “We’re a fun town with a lot to offer. Our beaches are so popular, even the sand comes to Wildwood.”
Staying true to the original event, giving back to the community has always been the focus of this show. A raffle was held, and the only way to obtain a ticket was by donating a non-perishable food item to Move for Hunger. Since 2014, the show has collected nearly 20,000 pounds of food, the equivalent of over 16,000 meals. If you missed the fun this year, be sure to check out the event’s website (njjeepinvasion.com) for details on next year’s show. And remember: no shirt, no shoes, no problem.
Despite the dreariness of the fog-filled morning, hundreds of Jeeps lined up anxious to get positioned on their spot of paradise in the sand.
The sea greeted everyone with a damp embrace of salt air and hopes of a sunny day ahead, even though the only evidence of the ocean was the sound of the waves crashing.
What better way to enjoy a sunny day at the beach than in the TeraFlex ’17 Jeep JK Chief? When Jeep came out with a special-edition JK Chief, TeraFlex decided to tear it apart and make it more like they thought the iconic Chief should be. After upgrading the stock suspension, axles, and body armor, they switched out the hood, fender, and grille for that blast from the past look to complete the build.
If you look hard enough in the haystack, you will eventually find the needle. Eric Jankowski had a real eye-catcher with his ’84 Jeep CJ-8 Overlander. The Australian marketing package utilized a “world cab” special hardtop and doors with windows and side vents that are not available in the U.S. This rare model is mechanically identical to the right-hand drive Alaskan postal CJ-8. Eric has ordered parts from all over the world in order to make this beauty as close to original as possible.
A curious helicopter gave a whole new meaning to “Jeep Invasion.” It’s not every day you get the opportunity to pose in the sand with this classic out-and-back wooden coaster that was designed and installed by Custom Coasters International in 1996. This old-school coaster may reach speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour, but the Jeeps stayed at a steady crawl.
A sea of Jeeps covered the soft sands of beach with nearly 1,500 registered Jeeps and countless parking lots packed with Jeep fanatics wanting to be part of this unique show. It was an amazing sight to see countless rows of Jeeps with a beautiful ocean backdrop.
Wildwood's beaches, 500 yards wide at points, are the largest in New Jersey. It all started in 1911 when Cape May, located about 10 miles south of Wildwood, finished digging its harbor, with jetties that extend 4,500 feet from its mouth into the Atlantic Ocean. While this protects boats from rough water, it also creates an erosion nightmare. The north jetty traps sand on its north side, the Wildwood side, while starving beaches farther south. Today, the sand in the natural ebb tidal flow that would have made its way to this channel gets diverted to Wildwood's main beach, which makes it an ever-growing beach. This is the perfect beach for a Jeep show, and there’s more than enough room for growth.
What would a Jeep show be without a show ’n’ shine? If it was parked on the beach, it was part of the contest. That’s a lot of Jeeps to choose from. However, 25 lucky owners were awarded prizes, and of course, bragging rights.
As the fog started to burn off, and the weather became less questionable, people began to gather around the obstacle course to watch as Jeep owners lined up to try their luck. We all know everyone secretly wanted someone to get hung up and put on a show.
With the main goal for the show being to give back to the community, the food drive for Move for Hunger was an enormous success. Over 100 raffle prizes were given away to lucky participants who scored a ticket by donating non-perishable food. It helped collect nearly 8,000 pounds of food—enough to provide 6,500 meals to people in need.
Just when you think you are amidst a sea of JKs, out of nowhere comes a Willys to play Where’s Waldo?—the off-road edition.
More than 75 vendors participated in this year’s show; many of them top brands in the industry. This gave show patrons a chance to touch and feel the product, not to mention seeing it in use on some impressive company builds.
Rugged Ridge, whose parent company is Omix-ADA, was the event title sponsor and brought along some of its impressive Jeep collection, like this little beauty that without a doubt belongs on the beach. They used this time as an opportunity to get to know their customers and collect honest product feedback to help understand what consumers are looking for.
The hill climb on the obstacle course may not compare to the natural sand dunes at Pismo Beach in California, but it did provide drivers with a little challenge, especially newcomers to the off-roading world.
All you need is a lot of sand and imagination to create a fun, twisting, climbing, obstacle course that any Jeep could enjoy. The course was made up of dunes in multiple sizes, and high berm turns like this one.
Nothing will turn your head in the middle of summer like seeing a Jeep decorated for the holidays on the beach. Part of the themed parade on Sunday was, you guessed it, Christmas.
No obstacle course is complete without a mud pit, but since sand doesn’t make the best mud, a carved-out water pit to go splashing though would have to do. This was a pleasant change for all the mud-haters of the world.
Sand dunes on New Jersey beaches? Not exactly, but thanks to Quadratec for sponsoring the obstacle course, and Rausch Creek off-road park for creating it, for two days it was a reality. It wasn’t the normal rock piles and logs, but it did the trick to entertain drivers and spectators alike.
A day at the beach wouldn’t be the same without being dive-bombed by a flock of seagulls.
Once on the beach—perfect spot picked, personal Jeep oasis set up—you could head out to explore your options for the day. Whether you wanted to mingle with the vendors, grab something to eat from the food trucks, or even head out to the boardwalk, there was no end of things to do.