Jeep lovers, car buffs, history lovers or anyone looking for an interesting festival to attend should mark the calendar for the Bantam Jeep Festival (June 9-11) in nearby Butler, Pa.The festival celebrates everything Jeep, and continues to grow every year. (Last year, the festival celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Jeep.)
But why in Butler, Pa.?
The story goes that when the American government sent out a request to automakers to build a rugged vehicle for World War II, the American Bantam Car Co. (originally called the American Austin Car Co.) in Butler was one of only two companies to answer the call.
The rest is history you can learn about at an exhibit devoted to the history of the Jeep and its use during the war and beyond.
For Jeep owners or those simply looking for a cool festival to attend, there is plenty to do and see. The festival offers non-driving and driving attractions.
• The “Faces of Jeep” exhibit features grilles from the 1940s and 1950s, representing each model throughout the decades.
• The Jeep history exhibit tells the story of the American Bantam Car Co. with a special “Jeeps Through the Decades” display.
• A World War II encampment features re-enactors along with original 1940s Jeeps.
• Visit the “Jeep Corral” if you are looking to buy a Jeep. Sellers will be showing off Jeeps for sale, while the Jeep Flea Market is for those looking for parts and more.
• How-To Clinics for Jeep owners looking to install parts or preparing the vehicle for an overland adventure.
• “Ride With A Guide” pairs Jeep dealers offering guests a chance to test drive a Jeep and even take it off road on a special stock beginner trail.
• A “Little Jeepers Playground” has arts and crafts as well and mini vehicles for the kids to drive around. Free with admission.
• A Jeep carnival will feature Jeep-themed twists on traditional carnival games.
Behind the wheel
The registration deadline for events such as Babes of Bantam Trail Ride and the Night Ops Trail Ride has passed, but you can still be part of the most popular Jeep-only events. On-site registration opens at 8 a.m. June 9-11, and closes one hour before the festival ends each day.
• The big Jeep Invasion ($15) takes place Friday night in downtown Butler. The streets are closed so festival-goers can check out 20,000 Jeeps.
• Jeep Playground/On-Site Trails ($50). See what your Jeep can do on the playground that features obstacles like rocks, piles of dirt and bridges. Stock and modified Jeeps can play.
• Jeeps on the Rock Trail Ride, trail ride times vary ($30), is a new off-site stock-friendly trail ride near Slippery Rock, Pa. More challenging than the Moraine Trail Ride.
• Moraine Trail Ride, trail ride times vary on Friday and Sunday ($25), is a ride through Moraine State Park, including untouched areas of the park not accessible to vehicles. For beginner and stock Jeeps, front tow hook required.
• Best of Bantam ($25). Enter your Jeep in a variety of classes.
• Ruff ‘n Tuff ($25). Compete in nontraditional categories like Most Mud and Best Chick Jeep.
• Mystery Road Rally ($30) is a Jeep scavenger hunt with social media components. Drive along beautiful roads, following directions and gathering points. Not scored on completion time so in essence, a leisurely ride.
• Glacial Interpretive Driving Tour ($20). For the Jeep scientists, this interesting ride visits geological formations in the area.
• Historic Travels Tour ($25). Visit locations in Butler County that follow in a young George Washington’s footsteps on his trip through Butler County in 1753. Includes a stop at the historic Old Stone House tavern.
Activities, food and more
• The Butler Outdoor Club plans a variety of non-Jeep activities at Moraine State Park, McConnell’s Mill State Park and Cooper Lake including hiking, biking and kayaking.
• The festival features a variety of food stands and vendors. The All-You-Can-Eat Bantam-Wing Fest is Saturday, June 10. Adults $14; Ages 4-10 $8; under 3 free. Includes wings, fries, coleslaw, water and soda. Those planning to attend must prepurchase online by today. No meal tickets sold on site.
The festival is held at Cooper’s Lake Campground (June 9-11). Admission is $10 per day for adults, kids 3-12 are $3.
For more information about the festival, maps of the area, where to stay and more, visit the Bantam Jeep Festival at bantamjeepfestival.com