Are you in love with your Jeep? You’re not alone.
I love my Jeep. The fact is, I love it more than any boyfriend I’ve ever had. I thought this was kind of strange, until I realized that there are A LOT of other women out there who love their Jeeps as much as I do. (I’m not really sure how they feel about their significant others).
I tell you this because if you love your Jeep, and you’d like to meet others who are as passionate as you are, then start packing now to spend June 10-12 in western Pennsylvania at the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival. Centered around Butler, PA, where the original Bantam Jeep was created, the festival offers everything that a Jeep aficionado could want—from a Ruff and Tuff competition that awards prizes for most mud, best ‘chick’ Jeep and most trail ready—to a Mystery Road Rally for those who love scavenger hunts.
You can sign up to drive on-site trails that are appropriate for beginners, or advanced routes for more experienced drivers with modified machines—and if you’re not afraid of getting dirty, the Jeep Playground offers the chance to put your Jeep, and probably your washing machine, through its paces.
Think Jeeps are for the guys? Think again.
According to Festival Director Patti Jo Lambert, the festival is not the testosterone-laden event that you might expect. “What’s become clear since we’ve been holding this festival is that Jeep enthusiasts aren’t all men—we have just as many women attending who are just as enthusiastic about their Jeeps as the men,” she said. “Women really seem to love the camaraderie they find among others who share their same interest; and if you love your Jeep, there’s no better place to be than among people who are this passionate about their vehicles.”
Some women make it a ‘girls’ weekend,’ while others bring their whole families to the children-friendly festival, which is now in its sixth year. “While some car events center around beer and bikinis, that’s not what we’re all about,” said Lambert. “We want people to come and have a really fun time; and even if you’re trying something new, like the rock crawl or a trail ride, you won’t feel uncomfortable—people here are really supportive and encouraging and cheer everyone on.”
And there’s more to do even out from behind the wheel
Even when you’re not behind the wheel, you can find something fun to do. As a history buff, I love touring the World War II encampment, which this year, will include a military-themed obstacle course for children. There is also a Little Jeepers Playground with all sorts of activities to keep the kids entertained, along with history presentations throughout the weekend. Another new addition this year is The Faces of Jeep, showcasing grilles from the 1940s and ‘50s.
If you get the urge to shop, there’s a flea market, as well as more than 100 vendors from all over the U.S. selling almost every type of Jeep part, accessory and apparel ever created—and if you don’t know quite what to do with that thingamajig you bought—how-to clinics will be held all three days.
More than 15,000 people are expected to attend the event, which in previous years has seen visitors from 38 different states and five countries. Many return each year to catch up with new friends they’ve met the year before—which is not surprising, considering that Jeep drivers are the ones who wave to each other every time they pass another Jeep. And even if you don’t have your own Jeep, that doesn’t need to keep you off the trails; this year you can Ride with a Guide on an off-road trail to check out just what the rest of us are talking about.
Places to stay (and shower) after you play
Not surprisingly, a lot of Jeepers love the great outdoors, so they come prepared with their own camping equipment. There are a lot of nearby campgrounds, including Cooper’s Lake Campground, where many of the activities will be taking place. But you don’t have to rough it if you don’t want to. If you’d prefer to have your own long, hot shower after getting covered in mud—either at the playground, or after running the Muddy 5K race—Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties all offer numerous hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. Something new this year, which I think is really cool, is camper rentals, provided by Brad’s Camper Rentals. You reserve your camper, and he takes it to the campground and gets it completely set up so that it’s waiting for you after a long day of Bantam-based fun.
What you need to know to get there
Online registration closed in early May, but you can still register on-site beginning at 8 a.m. on June 10. There is still room to participate in almost all of the events, and you can see a list of what’s available and what it costs by visiting bantamjeepfestival.com, which also lists every possible event and attraction you can imagine!
You think you love your Jeep now? Just wait until you spend the whole weekend with it.
Vanessa Orr is a Pittsburgh-based journalist who loves road trips and animal rescue, which could partly explain how she ended up living with a Mackenzie River husky in Alaska for seven years. A freelance writer for the past two decades, she has written features for a wide range of local, regional and national publications, and is known for hopping in the Jeep on a moment’s notice to conduct first-hand research. Current projects include fixing up a broken-down Dodge Dakota and finding loving homes for the furry passengers she’s picked up in her travels.