Why didn’t we do this a long time ago? That’s the general feeling and opinion of many of the participants at this jovial Jeep Festival. The Toledo Jeep Fest is an event held in Toledo, Ohio to celebrate the history and continuing evolution of the Jeep. Like the Easter Jeep Safari and Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival held in other parts of the country, the Toledo Jeep Fest celebrates the Jeep and all of its history and influence in the local Toledo area. Toledo has been the site of the Jeep assembly plant since the Willys Overland Company first developed the vehicle that would eventually become the Jeep Wrangler. That history, and the ongoing partnership of now Fiat/Jeep with the City of Toledo, made for a great event.
From August 10-12, 2018, vendors from off road companies, food trucks, and Jeeps from all eras descended on Toledo to sell their products, display new ones, meet like-minded enthusiasts, and celebrate the history and legacy of the vehicle that defined the off-road industry post-WWII. Festival activities included a 1,600-participant Jeep parade.
Also on display were products from major aftermarket companies including Dana, Rancho, Skyjacker, and multiple others in vendor row. Event participants could enjoy food from local food trucks, participate in a raffle to win a 2018 Jeep Wrangler, listen to local bands, let the kids hang out in the kids zone, or marvel at the stunning collection of vintage, modern, and rare Jeeps at the car show area. If you have any interest in Jeep, then this was your mecca.
The Toledo Seagate Center, which is a 75,000-square-foot exhibit space, was packed with historic and rare vehicles. Rare Jeeps from the Omix-ADA collection, as well as concept vehicles from Fiat/Jeep, were on display for visitors to marvel at. From farm implement attachments to modern Jeep Wranglers pulling Jeep-themed hearse trailers, there was something for everyone at the Seagate Center display.
As we wandered in and out of vendor booths and grabbed a bite to eat at the food truck park, we were once again struck by the excitement and camaraderie at this type of event. People that had never met before shared common space over a meal and discussed both their lives, as well as one of their favorite passions. The Jeep brand in general is strongly supported amongst the aftermarket companies, and the Wrangler in particular has a vast array of products and personalization options available for anyone to create a Jeep that is all their own.
These personalization options are also great conversation starters. As we strolled along the various booths, car shows areas, and food vendors, we saw strangers and friends alike showing off the latest additions to their rigs. Those conversations can start lifelong friendships that affect daily life and bring positive opportunities for everyone.
A perfect example of this was the Glass City Crawlers. The Crawlers are, by their own description, “a family-oriented club for off-road enthusiasts of every caliber. We welcome like-minded individuals that are committed to safe, respectful recreation, both on- and off-road, while complying with the principals of Tread Lightly. Local and state wide charities, our communities, and support for other clubs are as important to us as the social fellowship, events and activities that fill our calendar.” The Crawlers were instrumental in the establishment of the Toledo Jeep Festival, and are now vital to its ongoing and continuing future success.
On the first day of the weekend long event we ran into Glass City Crawlers members Edward Wallace and Matt Stapleton at the off-road obstacle course set up at a local Jeep dealership. The Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Superstore had established an 18 obstacle course to get the ball rolling for the event and jeepers turned out in droves to test their vehicles and their luck on the course.
We asked both the Wallaces and Stapletons what they thought of the event. Mr. Wallace shared that, “Every Jeep or off-road event is important to me because it gets everyone together like family and allows us to share what we love in common and also what’s different between us. What I liked the most is out of all of the Jeeps here, Dana picked mine for Best of Show!”
When we asked him what he thought could be improved for next year he responded with, “What I liked the least was how long the wait was as we sat for such long periods of time throughout the parade.” He also added that, “Toledo needs a place where we can take our vehicles off-road. Even if it’s small and simple, just something to get off-road and on some trails”. We’re not sure how much you can minimize the wait times in a 1,600-participant parade, but we can certainly agree with the creation and expansion of trails anywhere.
Stapleton shared with us that he felt pride in the fact that of the 1,600 Jeeps participating in the event, over 100 were with the Glass City Crawlers. Matt also said that “it is pretty amazing to be in a community that produces a vehicle that has had great impact in winning WWII and has kept Toledo vibrant for 77 years.”
Stapleton also mentioned that “it was great to be involved in making a nine-year-old boy who loves Jeeps smile.” Landon Derrick is a 9-year-old boy from South Carolina that has survived a brain tumor. He and his family traveled all the way to Toledo to participate in the event, as Landon is a huge Jeep fan. They were considered honored guests, and the Glass City Crawlers escorted this young man and his family to the event and shared in his smiles all day long.
Throughout the day, we were smiling and reveling in all things Jeep. The Toledo community was welcoming and just about as accommodating as you can get. The overall feeling was that this city is proud of its Jeep heritage and wants to put it on display for the entire world to see. Toledo definitely comes across as having small town charm and values with big city amenities. From the first class accommodations available downtown to the food truck park, there was a lot to be proud of at this event and we hope it continues well into the future.