Max Caylor / Photo
After bogging down in JeepFest’s mudpit Sunday afternoon, this man decided to have a little fun when he surprised the crowd with a daring back flip off the bumper. Trey Barnes dazzled the crowd with a backflip off his front bumper going head over heels into the blog. See more photos of JeepFest on pages 11-12A.
The 9th annual Sheriff’s JeepFest saw the off-road event in Marble Hill with a modest increase in registered Jeep owners and what appeared to be smaller spectator crowds.
Organizers reported Monday that 2,340 owners registered Jeeps for events between the Thursday night ride and final day on the trails and obstacle course Sunday.
Spectators can park and watch the obstacle course and see other entertainment for free so there is no accurate way to get a total, but it was thought to be a smaller general public crowd this year.
With the smaller crowd, warm but dry weather and a growing number of experienced volunteers, Sheriff Donnie Craig said this might have been the best of the nine JeepFests so far.
“Very smooth,” the sheriff said. “There were few issues and traffic seemed to flow much better than in year’s past.”
Craig commended the many volunteers and local non-profits who participate as the key to their success. “We have a phenomenal number of volunteers and support from numerous organizations across the county. I can’t begin to name them all, everything from Rotary to all the groups we donate back to will come out and help.”
Vendors from some of the large national off-road companies will attest that this festival is top notch.
Donnie Moss of Motobilt, based in Alabama, said he represents his Jeep parts companies at festivals most every weekend and he would rank the Sheriff’s JeepFest here in the top five of all national festivals. He has been working festival and shows for seven years and “when I come here, I know I won’t have any problems.”
“I see it as one of the top five shows in the nation and this year they knocked it out of the park,” said Moss.
He said the layout of the grounds around the obstacle course keeps everyone entertained and helps with sales.
“We were very happy with our sales and the other vendors I spoke to said they either met or exceeded [their sales goals],” Moss said.
He also noted the relaxed atmosphere at both Homebase and around town add to the vendors appreciation, saying everyone he has met here has been friendly.
Diezel Krentz of Team RK from Rock Krawler Suspension went further, complimenting the friendly atmosphere around JeepFest and throughout the county, “There must be something in the water that just makes you want to be nice.”
Krentz, who also travels the country for off-road shows and festivals, says when you see all the people that are helped by JeepFest, it makes you want to join in. “There is so much [JeepFest is] doing for the community, you forget about pushing sales and just want to go help someone.”
As part of the growing national reputation, Sheriff’s JeepFest has added a national charity, with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a hospital that offers specialized pediatric care for youngsters around the nation. Friday during the Show-n-Shine in downtown Jasper, Sheriff Craig and the Lowe family were onstage to present Children’s Healthcare a check for $20,000. The funds were donated by the Sheriff’s Foundation after they saw all the services Children’s Healthcare can provide when Harlan Lowe, the son of Ryker and Lisa Lowe of Jasper Jeep (one of the sponsors of JeepFest) had treatment there for leukemia.
“They have seen firsthand the amazing work they do there,” Craig said.
In addition to the personal connection through the Lowe family, Craig said the Sheriff’s Foundation board felt it was time to have a national charity, even though most of the funds raised will remain with local community groups. “The largest portion [of funds] will be kept here, but we felt that with national vendors, we needed a national charity to go along with our state charity, the Ga. Sheriff Youth Homes, and the local charities. We also believe having a national charity will open the door to more national sponsors.”
In the first eight years, JeepFest had raised and distributed more than $600,000 to non-profits in Pickens County and the Ga. Sheriff Youth Homes.