The Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival is one part auto show, one part enthusiast’s ball, and three parts fun. This festival is brand new as of 2011 and shows impressive staying power. With no great surprise either. Bantam Jeep lovers go crazy for their unique autos. It is only natural that this joy and appreciation for the Bantam not only be shared but be celebrated. So it is, the tiny town of Butler – birthplace of the Jeep – and the Butler Fairgrounds are inundated with this three day extravaganza.
The annual Jeep Invasion Street Party kicks things off on Friday. That afternoon the town of Butler is literally inundated with over a thousand Jeeps. The downtown streets are blocked off and amidst the throng of Jeep enthusiasts and experts are DJs food and plenty of fun. This is but a mere prelude to the collection. The proceeding days at the fairgrounds sees an influx of informative demonstrations, sharing of knowledge and general revelry. This is accentuated with a slew of history speakers who lecture on the evolution, origin and various functions of Jeeps. How-to clinics are offered multiple times through the festival and include everything from setting up suspension to the basics of off-roading
No car festival is ever without a car display, and Jeep Festival is absolutely no exception. In addition to the Friday afternoon parade of cars, the sop hop style gathering of cars through the weekend and last minute visitors passing through, there is the spectacular Show n’ Shine. Imagine the cream of the crop in all it’s splendor, this is the Show n’ Shine. There may not be a swimsuit modeling in this automotive pageant but these machines certainly catch the eye and will have all enthusiasts salivating with envy. Trophies are awarded for the best in various classes.
What to do after a car show, one may ask. For Jeep enthusiasts the answer is obvious – get dirty. For the original SUV, Jeep Festival boasts a Jeep playground, complete with various obstacles and plenty of mud. The Jeep Team Challenge is a daredevil blast of fun and is an event not to be missed. Watch as teams compete in an obstacle course with a blindfolded driver guided only by his backseat navigators. Nearly a half dozen trail runs take off from the festival. The most accessible and possibly best viewed trail is the Moraine Ride. Registered Jeeps are guided through stunning Moraine State Park down old logging roads and near Lake Arthur. The ride is nearly 90 minutes but departs the festival every half hour. Those interested are encouraged to register online because this tour will sell out.
Make no mistake; Jeep Festival is exactly that – Jeeps. While there are various distractions and activities, they all pander to the stereotypical demographic. That is to say, there are no art booths, no music and not much in the way of food vendors. Instead this is a true gathering and in that fashion there is something purely communal about it which doesn’t lend to the more traditional festival activities – and that is okay. There is a military relics sale and a WWII encampment. Saturday hosts the Great Pig Out. Raffle tickets offer chance at a grand selection of great prizes. The final tickets are sold on Sunday with the drawing early that afternoon.
Admission, parking and registration all have varying fees. Camping is available on-site