Let the good times roll

Bantam Jeep festival revs up for June

January 13, 2021 Cranberry Local News

A crowd watches mud-pit action at a previous Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival at Cooper's Lake Campground. After the cancellation of last year's festival due to the pandemic, this year's festival, planned for June 11 to 13, will mark the 10th anniversary of the event.

While organizers will carefully monitor the status of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival's 10th anniversary event is in the works.

Patti Jo Lambert, event organizer, said registration for the festival begins Monday.

The festival will be held from the weekend of June 11 to 13 at Cooper's Lake Campground, with various activities occurring at other outdoor locations around the county.

“We're very optimistic that by the time June gets here, we will be in a different situation as far as the virus,” Lambert said.

The 2020 event, which would have marked the festival's 10th anniversary, had to be canceled because of the virus and because Cooper's Lake was closed during the summer due to the pandemic.

“There were so many restrictions in place that we would not have been able to hold the event in June, but now we're moving full speed,” Lambert said.

She said with the gradual rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, she is hoping the case count will have fallen by June.

Lambert said the festival's events and activities, all of which are on for this year, are held outside, mostly in the huge Cooper's Lake property.

Most festival participants are inside their Jeeps for the majority of the activities, which would also limit contact, she said.

“As of now, we are fully planning to have the festival as we always do,” Lambert said.

One new feature at the 2021 event will be trail riding at the 235 acres near McConnells Mill in Muddy Creek Township that was purchased last year by the festival board.

“That was our bright spot of 2020,” Lambert said. “We will offer trail rides on the property as part of the festival this year.”

She said the only enclosed activity at the festival is the historical exhibit on the Cooper's Lake grounds, which details how, when and by whom Bantam Jeeps were conceived and manufactured in Butler.

Driver Nick Berezovski with muck flying and waves rolling in the mud pit at Bantam Jeep Fest 2016 at Coopers Lake Campground on Saturday, 6/11/16.

But the building is huge, has a one-way in entrance and one-way out exit, and generally is not packed with people.

“If we need to, we will limit the number of the people who can be inside at any one time,” Lambert said.

She said because of the size of the Cooper's Lake property, the number of people entering the festival will not be restricted.

“Our people are kind of distributed throughout the area,” Lambert said.

She hopes knowing the 2021 Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival is being planned will give virus-weary county residents a mental boost.

“We want people to have something positive to look forward to in 2021,” Lambert said.

Ellen Roberts of Zelienople was seated at the table at the county Tourism & Convention Bureau when the concept of celebrating the Jeep's Butler County birth was mentioned.

Roberts has served as an essential festival volunteer since then.

“The festival is important because you should be proud of the community and proud of what happened here,” Roberts said. “We're telling folks, 'Look, the Jeep came from Butler, and it changed the world.”

A festival board member, Roberts was glad to vote in favor of holding the festival in June.

“I thought it was a great idea,” she said. “I think we need to do it. Everyone is in such a funk, and we need something uplifting.”

She said the board members and many volunteers are committed to the festival and work hard each year to ensure it succeeds.

“We've come through a lot of rough patches, and I'm proud of where we're at,” Roberts said.

While more Jeep festivals continue to crop up across the United States, she invites everyone in the county to come out in June to support the festival and celebrate Butler's unique status.

“We are the only one that can say we celebrate the birthplace of the Jeep,” Roberts said.

More information, including registration for Jeep owners, is available at bantamjeepfestival.com.

Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs is a Butler County native who has been with the Butler and Cranberry Eagle newspapers since June 2000. Grubbs has covered the Mars School District and Middlesex Township for over 20 years with the Eagle and her former employer, the Cranberry Journal. She also covers Adams Township, Evans City and Mars in addition to events and incidents throughout Southwestern Butler County as assigned. Grubbs has taken the lead at the Cranberry Eagle in reporting on shale gas development, which has been a hotly debated topic in the recent past, both locally and nationally. A 1979 graduate of Butler Senior High School and a 1994 graduate of Geneva College, Grubbs has won a Golden Quill and four Keystone state awards, plus an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Grubbs enjoys following the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers, volunteers with the Connoquenessing Creek Cleanup each summer, and loves spending time outdoors and bird watching at her Penn Township home. Grubbs is the daughter of James R. Davis Sr., of Center Township, and the late Maxine Davis. She has two grown children, Jacqueline and Thomas.