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Great American Jeep Rally Really Rocked

Posted in Events on November 16, 2017
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What started out 15 years ago as a Jeep show modeled after a classic car show with a total of 200 Jeeps, held at Herbert’s Candy Mansion in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, has now grown into a two-day event with just a tad under 1,600 Jeeps. Over the last decade and a half, the show has had its ups and downs finding its place in the Jeep-show world, but it finally found the perfect stomping ground in Ellington, Connecticut, at Valley Truck and Off-Road. From its inception, the show has been an effort to raise money for various nonprofit groups across New England, such as Massachusetts Veterans Organizations, Canines for Kids, American Wolf Foundation, Helping Hands of America, Homes for our Troops, and Pink Angels.

Josh and Jen Schwalb, put in hundreds of hours, blood, sweat, and tears for the last nine years organizing this fundraising event to support the things they are most passionate about: Jeeps and America. On September 15-16, 2017, with the help of Dave and Beth Savard, family, friends, and many hardworking volunteers, they brought this farm land to life for a weekend of gawking at some of the coolest New England Jeeps, playing on one of the best rock gardens we’ve come across, taking a dip in an insane mud pit, and shopping the latest Jeep accessory finds with the many vendors attending the show. If that wasn’t enough, there are daily raffles for hundreds of great prizes, and of course, trophies for the best of the best in show.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out this show, start planning for 2018. It’s sure to be even bigger and better. Having fun playing with Jeeps never felt so good with one 100 percent of the profit going to charity. For more information about the Great American Jeep Rally, check out jeeprally.org.

Year after year, event organizer Josh Schwalb looks for feedback on the show in hopes of making it better for the next year. Three different areas of the playground consist of a large rock garden for Jeepers wanting a challenge, a mud pit for the ones wanting excitement, and an easy obstacle course for anyone wanting to test the waters of the off-roading world.
What the mud? We’ve heard of mud baths, but this took it to a whole new level. People just couldn’t seem to get enough of this gooey mess.
Like most shows, volunteers play an important part in the success of the event, and this was no exception. ECOJOCS (East Coast Off-road Jeepers of Connecticut) played a crucial part in the show this year by coordinating parking, the obstacle course, and the rock garden.
Before heading onto the obstacle course, everyone had a chance on the Rausch Creek teeter-totter. We’re not sure everyone understood that the purpose was to try balancing on it instead of just making a fancy entrance. However, Missy Reed gave it a shot in her ’05 Jeep TJ.
It’s one thing to conquer the rock pile, but doing so with a trailer attached is an entirely different ballgame, especially when you make it look like a walk in the park.
Nothing says rip-roaring, mudslinging good times like plowing through a soupy mud pit with no doors. We wouldn’t want to be the ones cleaning this Jeep the next day.
In addition to a challenging rock obstacle, and some serious mud, you could also spend hours walking up and down aisles of old iron, bone-stock favorites, and rockcrawling monsters.
This nicely restored ’57 DJ3A was purchased in 1957 by Look Memorial Park and used as a security vehicle until 1986, when it was purchased by the Ducharme family. It’s now in the hands of Robert Ducharme Jr., after being left to him by his grandmother. The two-wheel-drive dispatcher was offered with many different body options including a soft top, hardtop, or even a full van body. One model was a postal delivery vehicle with the driver's position on the right side for mailbox delivery.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. If you want to play in the mud, you have to pay the price afterwards. After having his turn in the mud pit, we found Kurt Nasse under his ’98 Jeep Wrangler, but fortunately nothing was broken.
This cheery, carefree 69-year-old woman has become a show favorite at this event. Kathe Crew first considered buying a Jeep in 2013, but after watching an ad showing a Jeep going over some rocks, decided that wasn’t for her. A few years later after getting stuck in the snow in an unplowed parking lot, she purchased a ’10 Jeep Rubicon. Curious about what she could do with it, she took an off-road course and says she’s never been happier. This year to raise money for her church, she raffled off the shotgun seat to attend the show. Watching her, along with the winner, Barbara Clements, go over the obstacle course laughing was pure pleasure for the crowd that cheered them on.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything at a Jeep show, you come across furniture made from old Jeep parts. Show your love for Jeeps in a whole new way. Core Custom Creations had everything from a bench made with a Willys tailgate to a bar made using a Willys grille.
We caught Chris DiRenza playing around on the obstacle course in his ’08 JK Rubicon, while he was taking a well deserved break from helping out with the show.
Steve Oaks got the crowd riled up when he hit the rocks in his ’94 two-door Cherokee. He doesn’t crawl the rocks; he hits them like he just robbed a bank, going back over the rocks as fast as he can. Even after breaking an axleshaft, the crowd cheered when an excavator had to be used to pick the Cherokee up and drag it off the course.
Chris “Dizzy” D'Auria refers to his team of friends at Flat Broke Motorsports as a group of broke kids with a dream. Their dream is to race at King of the Hammers one day. Chris has been attending and helping other teams at KOH since 2011, but in 2018 he’s stepping away from the sidelines to experience the thrill for himself in his ’99 Jeep Cherokee.
Weebles may wobble, but they won't fall down. It’s all in the lean. The obstacle course was a good time, even in a nicely restored ’54 Willys. The driver borrowed it for the show and had to return in the same shape it arrived.
A celebrity at any show, Ian Johnson has been attending the show since 2009. Attendees love getting the opportunity to take their picture with Ian, not to mention having the chance to pick his brain on Jeep problems they can’t wrap their head around. For the 15-year show anniversary, he thrilled the crowd by showing up in his Kaiser M715 “LockJaw.”
Winner, winner, chicken dinner: Three-year-old future Jeeper Evan Ankner left the show in his very own limited-edition 12V toy Jeep Wrangler decked out by the folks at Alpine. All he needs now is a little obstacle course to start his training.
If you look up the word determination in the dictionary, it should have this picture. It took multiple attempts, but the word quit is not in his vocabulary. He was going to make it or break it. By the way, he made it.
Sometimes drivers got stuck between a rock and hard place, but luckily there was a team of volunteers to help guide them through.
One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. You could find anything from a tailgate, steering columns, doors, and even transmissions at the show.
If you play in the mud, you’re going to need a bath. A local fire department helped out by hosing off those brave enough to take on the mud pit.
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