2013 Jeep Festival changes can help grow the event

The two major changes in place for the third annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival have the potential to make the event bigger and better than its two predecessors.

The festival is moving to the 500-acre Cooper’s Lake Campground in Worth Township from the Big Butler Fairgrounds, and the event is being shifted to June from August, which has become congested in terms of major tourism events.

Planning for the 2013 event has a solid foundation, with the first two festivals having exceeded expectations.

Having now finalized the two most important changes will enable planners to focus on creatively expanding the festival’s agenda with the goal of increasing interest and participation beyond the showings of the first two years.

The move to Cooper’s Lake Campground will add room for the event’s activities, particularly the trails events. Having the additional space will be the key to growing the festival beyond what was experienced the first two years.

For the city of Butler, it is good news that the “Jeep invasion” that provided such a big kickoff for the first two festivals will be held next year also, although the day of the “invasion” hasn’t yet been finalized.

Part of the planning for next year’s downtown Butler invasion must center on better arrangements for the arriving vehicles. There were some complaints about how that aspect of the festival was handled this year.

A major experiment involving the 2013 festival might be the change to a Thursday-through-Saturday or Thursday-through-Sunday festival from a Friday-through-Sunday event. If the change were to result in smaller attendance than in 2011 and 2012, the festival should revert back to its original format in 2014.

The initial years for anything so large are a learning experience with expectations for some trial and error. And, festival planners next year will have the opportunity to gauge the the timing of the festival from a weather standpoint — how a festival in June stacks up against a festival in August.

Next year’s festival will take place June 13 to June 15 or 16.

The Jeep Heritage Festival must never be allowed to become stagnant and uninteresting because of sameness year after year. Judging from what’s evolving for 2013, that risk is nowhere in sight.

Article originally published in The Butler Eagle