Jerry Huber softly chuckles as he tries to put into words what makes the community of Jeep owners so special and so eager to go to the ends of the earth together.
It’s sort of like that logical fallacy of a bumper sticker — It’s a Jeep thing. You wouldn’t understand.
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“There’s a camaraderie,” Mr. Huber said. “It’s a lifestyle vehicle more than just basic transportation for most people.”
That camaraderie couldn’t have been more clear than it was two years ago, when an estimated 40,000 people filed into downtown Toledo for no other reason than to celebrate 75 years of the Jeep brand.
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Now, after taking a year off, the crew that put on that first Toledo Jeep Fest is ready to roll out an event that has grown from a hastily arranged one-day festival into a weekend-long party that takes full advantage of downtown Toledo’s continued rebirth.
“It’s not just about Jeep,” said Mr. Huber, chairman of the Toledo Jeep Fest Steering Committee.
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“We want you to come see the city. I’m really tickled this year the ProMedica move is completed, Promenade Park is active again, we have the [Middlegrounds] Metropark that’s right on the river, we’re going to be able to use a lot of the Hensville facility. A lot of that was just getting started in 2016.”
Like it was two years ago, one of the keystone events for Jeep Fest is the all-Jeep parade, which will be broadcast live on WTVG-TV, Channel 13. About 1,100 vehicles participated in the inaugural parade, and organizers say they expect a similar turnout this year.
They’ve already registered about 850 vehicles, representing 26 U.S. states and Canada. As of Monday, the parade is full and registration is closed.
“I think it’s bigger than most people realize,” said Bruce Baumhower, the president of United Auto Workers Local 12. “It’s truly national. We had people from Montreal, Alabama, California. I think it’s just going to go onward and upward.”
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Mr. Baumhower said Jeep parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has again agreed to idle the Toledo Assembly Complex so employees there who build the Jeep Wrangler can attend the festival.
The 2018 version of Toledo Jeep Fest starts Friday, Aug. 10, in Monroe, Mich., with a welcome party and off-road course demonstration at the Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram Superstore. Later that night, KC and the Sunshine Band are playing at Promenade Park.
The downtown Jeep parade kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, followed by an all-Jeep car show. The SeaGate Convention Centre will again house a number of specially selected Jeeps that represent some of the key moments in the brand’s history.
Throughout the day there will be live music, beer gardens, giveaways — including that of a 24-month lease of a new Wrangler — and a variety of Jeep-themed fun for kids.
“We’re trying to give you multiple activities. Jeepers don’t come in just one shape and size, so we’re trying to find ways to appeal to as wide a group as possible.” said Cindy Kerr, the executive director of the Downtown Toledo Improvement District.
Ms. Kerr is expecting attendance this year to be between 40,000 and 60,000 people. And with the added benefit of hotel stays with a weekend long event, Ms. Kerr said the economic impact could be as much as $6 million, doubling what she estimated for 2016.
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