[Event Report] 2017 Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival – A lesson in compromise

This past weekend I trekked up to northwestern Pennsylvania for the annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival.  Each year thousands of Jeep enthusiasts descend upon the town of Butler each year to pay homage to the birthday of the Jeep.  As a Jeep enthusiast I’ve made the trip a few times myself.  However, this year things were a little different.

Another trip to Bantam means another trip through the tunnels

For the first time, ever, I had my own booth.  As exciting as this was, it was also a lesson in compromise.  Read on to find out why…

A pre-Jeep-Fest swing by Erie for a visit to a Patron Support Team member and some Odis12 wings

Last year I did my usual thing and covered the BJHF show as media.  (That report can be found here).  That’s what I’ve done in the past even before ECOA was a thing.  Under my photography company’s name of 4Low Digital Labs I’ve probably done a hundred or so event coverage reports in the last decade.

No more sneaking in for me
No more media badge
Joining the big-boy’s club now…
Vender check-in

This year things would be different.  For starters I’d be conducting How-to-Clinics for the festival on preparing Jeeps for overland travel.  That’s honestly nothing new.  I’ve done workshops before.  However as a perk of doing the workshops I was able to secure my own booth space.  A major step up for the exposure of ECOA and the NHT series but it would come at a cost to the coverage of the show.

Getting the booth space set up.
Talk about 10lbs of crap in an 8lb sack.

Pre-show campfire with Corporate Partners Torq-Locker makers of the Aussie Locker

For anyone who has never worked an event booth, it’s an experience that is both a blessing and a curse.  On the one side it’s a great way to talk to a lot of people.  Some people seek you out, others just stroll by.  However, when you’re a small operation it means being tethered to the booth the entire time.  That’s the downside.

Hello beautiful.

Also had to swing by corporate partners Rigid Industries to check out their new tow-rig and mobile lab
It’s big… and yes, don’t lie, you know you would.

The how-to-clinics were well attended and well received.  While the overland scene at a Jeep show is still a tiny fraction of a fraction of what’s going on, there were a lot more overland kitted Jeeps rolling around that in years past.  There were also some more overland specific vendors, like those selling roof-top-tents or off-road camping trailers, than in years passed.

“Preparing your Jeep for Overland Travel”
The only overland related workshop at BJHF… I’m sure there will be more next year.

Personally it was great to interact with people at the show.  For once I was able to represent myself and know that people where there to talk about me and what I have going on.  That might sound selfish, or even a bit narcissistic, but in years passed I’ve always been helping someone else with their booth.  This time it was all about me!  Well, all about me helping other people at least.

The booth in full display mode.
Lots of good photos from the 2015 and 2016 No Highways Tours
Need to get some more enlargements printed soon.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by and said hi!

Sadly being trapped in the booth meant I didn’t get to walk the show at all.  In years passed I’ve shot 100’s if not more than a 1,000 photos.  Vendor area, show field, trail rides, obstacle course.  I’ve covered it all.  However, having just done all that last year, I knew things weren’t going to be much different. Having been around the scene for as long as I am you start to realize the shows are pretty much the same form year to year.  My only regret was not making use of all the beautiful sunshine and blue skies for photos.  Bad photographer.

Butler Jeep Invasion with corporate partners JKS Manufacturing
JKS project Jeeps Brown Sugar and Big Red, along with the ECOA LJ all in a row

Looking ahead I’m sure my report for the PA Jeeps All Breeds Jeep Show in York next month will pretty much be the same.  Again I’ll have my own booth and will be doing some hands-on demos and workshops during the show.  I doubt I’ll get to walk around much, but seeing as how that show rarely changes I think I’ll be okay.  The only idea I had, which of course occurred to me on my way home, was to do some sort of live update from the show.  However, if you know anything about me by now, you know I’m a photo guy not a video guy.  Maybe I’ll play around with some sort of live update anyway.  We’ll see.

I did spot this M416/Bantam style trailer.  Not sure if it was built as a flat-deck or modified.
Either way, it’d make a great gear hauler for an overland Jeep

Thanks to Bomber Products for the Awnlock brackets, awning, and room and helping step-up our booth game.
HUGE thanks to Overland Solar for providing power for our trips and shows.  Keeps the fridge cold and the electronics charged.
Honorable mention to Tembo Tusk.  Didn’t use it much at the show, but it did draw in a few curious onlookers.
Might need a different menu for the PA Jeep Show and do more cooking on it for lunch when people are around.

Anyway, huge thanks to the 2017 Patron Support Team and the current Corporate Partners of ECOA and the NHT series for making this a possibility.  Also thanks to the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival for not only allowing me to do the overland workshops but also have my own booth.  Hopefully we can ramp things up a notch or two for next year!

Bonus:

If you’re ever in Butler, swing by The Chop Shop downtown.  Why? Three words:

COOKIE
EXPLOSION
CHEESECAKE!!!