While organizers planned last weekend’s Toledo Jeep Fest as a blowout celebration of the brand’s 75th anniversary, the event’s tremendous success has many looking ahead and wondering what next year might bring.
“It could have been since V-J Day that we had an activity or a celebration this big,” said Cindy Kerr, referencing the spontaneous revelry that broke out in cities across the country at the end of World War II.
Ms. Kerr, executive director of the Downtown Toledo Improvement District, estimated 40,000 people attended the Saturday event. More than 1,100 Jeeps participated in the parade alone.
Can that be repeated next year? Organizers aren’t sure, but they’re eager to start talking about their options.
“It was obvious from the community that there’s an appetite to do it again,” said Bruce Baumhower, the president of UAW Local 12 and one of the key people who made this year’s event possible.
Mr. Baumhower said the Toledo Jeep Fest committee plans to meet next week to recap the event and look ahead to next year.
IN PICTURES: Toledo Jeep Fest
Some of the biggest questions will likely revolve around whether they believe there would be a similar level of interest for an off-year anniversary, whether they can find enough sponsors and volunteers, how much cooperation they could get from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and if there’s any way they could widen the attraction.
Mr. Baumhower said the group wanted to let the day’s excitement cool down a bit before making any future plans.
“That decision will be made by our entire committee and we’re going to chew on that,” he said. “Walking away Saturday, everybody said we’ve gotta do this every year.”
There’s no doubt downtown businesses benefited from the event.
Bars and restaurants were packed all day Saturday and the Park Inn, the only operating hotel in downtown Toledo, was booked full. Lori Vance, director of sales for the Park Inn, said at least 46 of those guestrooms were reserved by people attending the event.
“It was just a great location for the guests and they had a really good stay,” she said. “The parade, where everything was displayed. The guests felt like it [Toledo Jeep Fest] was really well put together overall, and the accommodations met their needs as well.”
Destination Toledo, the area’s hotel and convention bureau, estimated the event generated between $2.7 million and $3.4 million in economic activity.
“This was hugely successful,” Ms. Kerr said. “The vendors that were down here had a very good day, our restaurants had a great day, and most of the event was held in what we call our central business district. The average person doesn’t spend a lot of time in that area, but this time they got to.”
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Frixos Stylianides, owner of Coney Island Hot Dog at 430 N. Superior St., said Saturday was one of his best days ever. The restaurant — which at 97 years old has been a Toledo fixture for longer than Jeep — was directly adjacent from the main outdoor show lot.
“We knew it was going to be very busy because everybody was across the street,” he said. “Our regular customers told everybody to come over here.”
Local tourism officials also said the event was a great way to introduce or reintroduce people to downtown Toledo and to build some civic pride.
“The business of the visitors was important, but I think the pride factor can’t be overstated,” said Rich Nachazel, president of Destination Toledo. “It was a proud weekend to be a Toledoan.”
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.
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