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Bantam Jeep Festival Celebrates 70th Anniversary in Butler County

Day Tripper urges you to pack up the family and head to Butler for this big weekend event.

The little, mighty Jeep is known around the world for being a pint-size workhorse.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower reportedly said that the Jeep was the tool that turned World War II in America's favor.

But did you know the Jeep was s in Butler?

This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of the invention of the Jeep. In honor of this amazing, funny-looking car, The Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau will play host to the first Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival Aug. 12–14.

For the inaugural event, the bureau has pulled out all the stops. There are so many reasons to attend the festival that I don’t even know where to begin.

Up first is what could be a record-making Jeep parade at 6 p.m. Friday.

“We hope to set the World Guinness Book of Records for the longest Jeep parade,” said event mastermind Jack Cohen, the executive director of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau.

An original Bantam Jeep from 1944, the year it was created, will lead the parade. Master of ceremonies will be Gov. Tom Corbett, who will lead a convoy of more than 500 Jeeps of all makes, models and years.

Spectators are invited and welcome along the parade route, which starts at the Butler County Community College and travels about three miles north on Route 8 to Downtown Butler.

Main Street in Butler will be transformed into an enormous Jeep cruise with fun for everyone, including music, vendors and more. The festivities end at 11 p.m.

Saturday’s events kick off at 9 a.m. at the Butler Fairgrounds and last through the fireworks display at 11 p.m.

The variety of activities are too numerous to list, but some of the highlights are:

  • a history pavilion highlighting the history of the Jeep.
  • The Jeep Show ‘n Shine – a display of 15 classes of Jeeps.
  • Jeep Playground -- an off-road course for Jeeps.
  • Jeep Marketplace -- for vendors.
  • Jeep Trading Post -- for those who wants to sell Jeep parts.
  • Camp Bantam -- excursions at Moraine State Park.
  • Little Jeepers Playground -- with a mini-Jeep paddle car for little “drivers.”

One of the activities you won't want to miss is a presentation of “Butler’s Proud Moment in History: The Bantam Jeep,” by Lee Bortmas, a local Bantam Jeep historian. The presentation will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the History Pavilion in the Butler Fairgrounds.

Bands also will be belting out tunes all weekend. Saturday's performers include Perfect Storm, Black Rock County Band, Moon Shine, Sydney Hutchko, Joe Zelek Band and the Billy Price Band. The Fabulous Thunderbirds will be the featured band at 9:30 p.m.

Sunday brings more fun from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Festivities include more clinics, off-road adventures and the Little Jeeps Playground activities for the children.

At 10 a.m. join Automotive writer Jim Allen while he presents  “Jeep Antecedents – What Led Up to the Jeep?” at the History Pavilion, followed by a book-signing of his two books,  “Jeep 4×4 Performance Handbook” and “Four-Wheeler’s Bible.”

There will be more musical performances on Sunday by Amanda Noah, Lou Lombardi’s Band and Strangelove.

The various stations will begin to close down at 4 p.m., which is when the Pennsylvania National Guard will present the “last trail ride.”

Food and other vendors will be at the Butler Fairgrounds through the entire weekend, so don’t worry about refreshments. Admission is $7 per day for adults. The cost for children ages 3-12 is $3, and children 2 and younger are admitted for free.

While this is the first Bantam Jeep Festival, the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau already has placed a 2012 festival on the books for next August.

You won’t want to miss the inaugural event this weekend -- there are enough activities to keep you busy the whole weekend.

Day Tripper will see you there!

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