Jeep Fest returns in 2022 bigger than ever

Toledo Jeep Fest’s 2022 edition will be bigger than ever and has been scheduled to coincide with Toledo Mud Hens home games that should help boost attendance, its lead organizer said Tuesday.

“We’ve created an event that’s in demand and we are going to make it bigger,” said Pete Gerken, a Lucas County commissioner who also is chairman of the festival’s board. “Our goal is to have participation from all 50 states. We are going to make it an All-American year.”

And while Toledo cherishes its place as the birthplace of Jeeps, it’s also celebrated as the home of the Mud Hens, whose homestand against the Omaha Storm Chasers scheduled for Aug. 9 through Aug. 14 guided the scheduling of Jeep Fest 2022 for the weekend of Aug. 12-14.

“That’s the real double bag. As iconic as Jeep is nationally, the Mud Hens regionally are the biggest draw,” Mr. Gerken said, noting that the festival’s economic impact grows almost every year.

The combination of attractions, he said, should translate into a record Jeep Fest crowd exceeding 75,000, which in turn should boost the event’s economic impact for Toledo.

The first Toledo Jeep Fest in 2016 attracted 40,000 people, a second in 2018 drew 60,000, and in 2019 an estimated 70,000 attended, spending money on vendors, restaurants, bars, and hotels.

The fourth festival two months ago generated an estimated $5.1 million in local economic activity and attracted 60,000 to 70,000 people to downtown Toledo, including visitors from 36 other states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Mexico, after the event skipped 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At least 90 local and national vendors and more than 300 volunteers were involved in this summer’s event, while at least 1,300 Jeeps drove in the All-Jeep Parade through downtown Toledo.

All of that occurred despite the pandemic’s lingering impact on public participation in large gatherings and other constraints, which makes the 2022 goal of at least 75,000 visitors from all 50 states realistic, Mr. Gerken said.

Whitney Rofkar, Toledo Jeep Fest’s event director, said festival organizers usually announce the event dates at the beginning of the year, but chose to do it earlier this time around to capitalize on the pre-pandemic momentum the event rekindled this year, reaffirm their commitment to downtown as the festival site, and attract even more people, including from more states, and more countries, especially once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

“Toledo Jeep Fest attendees from around the country like to plan ahead – book hotel rooms, plan stops as they drive across America in their Jeeps, et cetera,” Ms. Rofkar said.

“Similarly, event vendors and sponsors also like to plan ahead, so there is a need and demand from event partners to open up vendor registration, sponsor opportunities, and even parade registration as soon as possible,” she said.

Organizers are exploring creating a mobile app that would help attendees “tailor their Jeep Fest experience and navigate the downtown footprint,” according to the spokesman.

Other details of the fest will be released at a news conference scheduled at 5 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot at United Auto Workers Local 12, 2300 Ashland Ave.

Along with Mr. Gerken, speakers will include Jerry Huber, a retired Jeep Plant manager and Toledo Jeep Fest board member, and Bruce Baumhower, Local 12’s president.

“We’re very excited to take Toledo Jeep Fest to the next level in 2022,” Ms. Rofkar said. “… In Year Five, our fans will not be disappointed.

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