Max Caylor / Photo
This year, mud fun stayed at the grounds of the festival due to successful changes and dry conditions.
Attendance at the yearly JeepFest in Marble Hill grew another 10 percent this year from last year – a trend that has held steady for the past several years at the off-road weekend mecca.
For 2018, Sheriff’s JeepFest saw between 2,350 -2,400 Jeep owners register for the weekend, up from 2,200 in 2017 and the 2,000 in 2016. This marked the seventh annual event. There is no charge for spectators or gates so there is no way to estimate how many thousands more showed up to visit the vendors and watch the four-wheel action in the obstacle course.
While many local lovers of muddy trails roll up, license plates from as far away as Illinois are routinely spotted in the crowd and registration showed some had made the trek from California.
Despite the continued growth, this year’s event was by far the smoothest in the JeepFest history.
Sheriff Donnie Craig, the event’s founder, said on Monday, “best event yet from what I have heard from vendors and spectators.”
Several changes appeared to have paid off with previous woes involving parking, traffic and mud. Plus, the 7th annual event got a big bonus with dry conditions, after the Wednesday night rain. Trails were damp which kept dust down, but not slippery and held up well.
Relocating a key trail entrance from Highway 53 to Dragon Drive allowed traffic to flow better through Marble Hill. Craig said crews from Woodstock Baptist Church and Revolution Church handled the parking well - getting people off the road and into spaces quickly, preventing backups on Highway 53.
Gravel exit paths held the mud mostly on the festival grounds. Craig complimented his volunteers and county road crews for jumping quickly on any mud clean ups.
No arrests or serious incidents were reported involving JeepFest participants. Two people were arrested in separate incidents tied to the festival, one for marijuana possession near a trail entrance and one for petty theft at Homebase.
Three people were treated for heat issues at Homebase.
Sheriff Craig said they heard a report of some shots near a trail, but found nothing unusual when they responded.
While there was enough Jeep damage to keep mechanics busy, no injuries or serious crashes were reported.