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Little town, big event

    Thursday night a vivid rainbow hung above JeepFest 2014’s home base in the field behind Ingles, providing a charming backdrop to the beginning of an event that would bring 1,300 officially registered Jeeps roaring into the small town of Jasper and hundreds more Jeepers who were on-hand as spectators.
    The Monday after four days of trail rides, obstacle courses and car crushes, the red dirt started to wear off roads near the field where cleanup was underway.
    Now that the dust has settled we’d like to congratulate the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office on a job well done, and take the opportunity to say we’re proud of the way our little town pulled together to make the event go off without a hitch.
    From the countless number of folks who volunteered to others who rolled out that unmistakable southern-charm to welcome the crowds, Pickens proved that just because the town is small doesn’t mean the thinking is small or that things here can’t be top-notch.  
    Not only did JeepFest 2014 raise thousands of dollars for the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes, The Joy House and the Pickens Sheriff’s Foundation (an organization that was formed after a round of devastating tornadoes here and still offers emergency assistance and scholarships), it brought thousands of tourists into town who ate and slept here, and made being at home feel kind of like traveling.
    Progress staff members who volunteered Friday at the JeepFest t-shirt booth made a point to ask where folks were from. One couple drove from New Orleans. Another was from Asheville. A guy from Ft. Lauderdale said he left Tuesday and took over 1,400 miles to tootle around before he eventually wound up in Jasper. Very few people surveyed were from Pickens, and it’s exciting to think about people from across the country making our town their destination for a weekend. 
    Some locals might argue that events like these can be a nuisance and do little more than tie up resources and create traffic jams, especially for people who aren’t into Jeeps. One NPR report spotlights Traverse City Michigan, a small town with big events many times each year. Residents there complained to commissioners that they were tired of festival-goers hogging their parks and clogging up their roadways, but Pickens - which boasts just a couple big festivals annually - still has the luxury of viewing festivals as novel and fun. 
    In the same NPR article Dan McCole, assistant professor and tourism researcher at Michigan State University, says festivals are actually more in line with the way Americans are traveling and vacationing nowadays - shorter weekend trips. Many Jeepsters were from out of town, but close enough that the drive here was painless (Marietta, Alpharetta, Chattanooga).  
    Our otherwise subdued town came to life and we were given the opportunity to showcase Pickens and see people take pride in our community, like the guys who won the bid to crush the Sheriff’s car. All were from Pickens, and going into the bid one of them said he felt like the car crush needed to be done by locals to keep it in the family. Heck yeah. We agree.
    So, from the folks who organized the event, to the guys guiding trail rides, to law and emergency personnel who worked the streets to keep things safe, to  business owners and everyone else involved, good job on contributing to a great event. For a weekend our little town was on stage, and we think everyone can agree. Pickens nailed it.