The Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, one of the premier Jeep-only events in the nation, is geared up to welcome Jeep owners to the birthplace of the Jeep in Butler, Pa. June 13-15, 2014. These loyal enthusiasts drive hundreds of miles to descend on Butler County, including those anxious to admire dozens of rare military Jeeps to those who can’t wait to test their Jeep’s off-road capabilities on wooded trails and fun obstacles.
“We’re adding even more things to see and do because we want to create an experience that changes and improves each and every year,” said Patti Jo Lambert, Festival director. “This Festival is unique because it offers a wide range of experiences over a three-day weekend that appeal to all ages and all types of Jeep enthusiasts. We’re committed to providing an opportunity for the Jeep community to come together and share their passion in the same place where the Jeep began more than 70 years ago.”
During the weekend, attendees will see more than a thousand Jeeps of all models and years, learn about the history of the Jeep from WWII re-enactors, exhibits and speakers, and see some of the latest parts and accessories offered by nearly 100 vendors. They’ll also hear from industry experts who provide tips and insights about the Jeep, experience off-road trails and obstacles and participate in variety of individual competitions and organized rides.
New in 2014
More Mud: The mud pit featured in the Jeep Playground is an annual Festival favorite. Jeep owners enjoy the opportunity to test their Jeep’s capabilities, and spectators erupt in cheers when a Jeep conquers the muddy mess. New in 2014, a mud pit designated for stock Jeeps only will enable those with straight-off-the-lot vehicles to experience the thrill of making it through the mud.
The Bantam Jeep Muddy 5K is a new event that combines mud and the Jeep Playground in a whole new way. Five hundred individuals will have the chance to participate in this inaugural 5K foot race that will be held at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, June 15. The race course will challenge people to perform as well as a tricked-out Jeep. Obstacles along the course will include tires, cargo nets, steep hills, wooded trails and the Jeep Playground itself. Racers will run over and through the same dirt hills and mud pit that the Jeeps do. The race will be a great way for families to kick-off their Father’s Day celebrations.
More Time for Fun: The Festival is being extended an extra hour on Saturday evening, giving participants more time driving on the trails and playground, visiting industry vendors, walking through the WWII Encampment, learning about Jeep history and admiring the Jeeps competing in the Show ‘n Shine competition. Event hours will be Friday, June 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 14 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The last trail rides will go out 30 minutes before the Festival closes each day.
Nearly 400 volunteers are needed to execute the Festival and more are needed every year as planners offer more to do. This year, the Festival is giving volunteers an “extra fun hour.” After the Festival closes on Friday and Saturday, volunteers will be given an exclusive opportunity to experience the Jeep Playground and trails. This extra time is in addition to the $110 worth of registration fees Jeep owners receive for free if they volunteer about eight hours of time before, during or after the event.
Even More to Do: New activities and opportunities for Jeepers will be featured in 2014. The Historic Travels Tour will be held Saturday, June 14. Participants will have the chance to experience a hands-on look at historic travel in Butler County. They will taste the recipes that were served to travelers at a historic stage coach stop. Next, they’ll take a short, easy hike on a trail that is in the vicinity of where a young George Washington traveled in 1753. Environmental educators will explain how the landscape may have looked during that time. Finally they will listen to re-enactors portraying Washington and his guide Christopher Gist talk about their “personal” experiences traveling through the area.
The Glacial Interpretive Driving Tour has been expanded to two days. Introduced in 2013 as a Friday-only activity, Jeepers can now participate on Sunday too. Participants will visit three interesting geological formations made by glaciers and learn from environmental educators who will offer short hikes and share details about each feature.
The new Bantam Garage will be available for Festival participants who may experience break-downs during the event (labor is free – repair parts will need to be purchased). The Garage will get Jeepers back on the road and trails again as quickly as possible.
For attendees who don’t have a Jeep, the Festival is introducing Ride with a Guide, a new opportunity to experience driving off-road. Any licensed driver will have the chance to test-drive a new Jeep on a dedicated stock, off-road trail.
Also new this year is the Jeep Corral. This area will be dedicated to Jeep owners who want to sell their Jeeps. Those looking to purchase a Jeep will want to stop by and see what’s for sale.
Festival Favorites Return
“We made a number of significant changes in 2013 to respond to the Festival’s popularity, and we received fantastic feedback from attendees who loved our new location at Cooper’s Lake Campground near Slippery Rock, Pa., the addition of a third full day and the new Father’s Day weekend date,” said Lambert.
One of the most popular aspects of the Festival is the Jeep Invasion. Held on Friday night, the Invasion is a street party in downtown Butler. More than 1,000 Jeeps of every size, shape and color park along the street for this special night.
The new 0n-site trails were a hit in 2013, and Jeepers will want to experience the stock, modified and intermediate trails again. Jeep owners looking to win some new hardware and bragging rights will want to enter the Show ‘n Shine competition. More than 70 trophies will be awarded among 18 different classes.
Jeep heritage takes center stage in the World War II Encampment and Jeep History Exhibit. The encampment features more than 20 WWII Jeeps and provides a living history experience as re-enactors tell stories of the Jeep and Army life during the 1940s. Learn the history of how the original Jeep was born in 1940 inside the Jeep History Exhibit. It also features a Jeeps through the Decades display showcasing unusual Jeep models over the past eight decades. How-to clinics, flea market, kids activities and more also fill the event schedule.
Festival Builds on Success
Since the inaugural event in 2011, the Festival has experienced 20 percent growth with 1,557 registered Jeeps and more than 15,000 attendees in 2013. The participants came from 29 states and Canada where they paid tribute to the father of all Jeeps, the Bantam, and experienced three days of fun and camaraderie with others who share the same enthusiasm for the Jeep.
Plan to Attend
Jeep owners who want to bring their Jeep to experience all that the Festival offers must register to attend. Online registration will begin in January, and a special Festival package with savings of 30 percent can be purchased through March 31. Savings drop to 20% from April 1 to May 18 when pre-registration ends.