A newsmaker you should know: Jeep jubilee helps drive tourism, economy in Butler


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They expected a crowd of 10,000, but instead more than 30,000 showed up.

"The crowds far exceeded our expectations," Patti Jo Lambert said of the first Bantam Jeep Festival Parade held last August as the opening event for the three-day festival at the Butler Fairgrounds.

Plans are well under way for the second Bantam Jeep Festival slated for Aug. 10-12. The event commemorates Butler as the birthplace of the jeep.

Last year's parade established a Guinness World Record for the longest Jeep parade.

Organizers had hoped to have 1,000 Jeeps in the parade. They had 1,106 and could have had more, if space and time allowed, according to Mrs. Lambert, director of the Bantam Jeep Festival and media relations specialist for the Butler County Tourism Bureau.

"We thought it was a far-reaching goal but, at a certain point, we had to actually cut off the registrations," she said.

"We hadn't done this before, so we weren't sure exactly how many would be possible," she said of parade participants, who gathered at Butler County Community College.

As the director of the festival, Mrs. Lambert, 41, of Economy, oversees all aspects of the event, including registrations, volunteers, sponsorship, marketing, vendors, activities and signs.

"Last year, I pretty much did it on my own with the help of volunteers, but this year I have 20 committees," she said.

The committees still consist of volunteers, but being able to delegate some of the responsibilities has made this year's planning more manageable.

"My work has changed because now I am managing people instead of all of the small tasks and duties," she said.

Prior to the festival, Mrs. Lambert and Jack Cohen, executive director of the festival and the driving force behind the creation of the event, researched Jeep festivals across the country.

"I had no experience putting on [a] festival of this magnitude and with Jeeps," Mrs. Lambert said. "I had put on lots of events in the past, but not like this."

Using the "guidance and kindness" of other Jeep festival organizers, Mrs. Lambert said, she was able to organize last year's successful event.

She said people from 25 states and five countries attended last year's festival. Organizers had hoped for 5,000 to attend and estimated that 20,000 came.

The festival brought in an estimated $1.2 million to the local economy.

Mrs. Lambert also thinks the recognition may have helped spur Smithsonian Magazine to choose Butler as one of the top 10 towns in America.

"I really think the festival helped bring attention to our town," she said.

The tourism bureau is committed to hosting the Bantam Jeep Festival through 2015, the 75th anniversary of the vehicle.

Mrs. Lambert appreciates her role.

"I'm privileged to be the person to organize this event that has such a significant impact, drawing tourism and money to our region," she said.

As the second festival grows closer, Mrs. Lambert said they are well-prepared and excited for the crowds again this year.

The event will open from 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 10 with a Jeep Invasion and Street Party and then the two-day event at the Butler Fairgrounds, which will include the Jeep playground, national vendors, World War II Jeep encampment, history exhibits and educational presentations and speakers.

PATTI JO LAMBERT

AGE: 41

HOMETOWN: Economy

FAMILY: Husband, Bob; sons, Jason, 12, Nathan, 8, and Ryan, 4

OCCUPATION: Director of Bantam Jeep Festival and media relations specialist for Butler County Tourism Bureau

EDUCATION: Bachelor of science in public relations and journalism, West Virginia University

HOBBIES: Soccer mom, golf, gardening and reading

neigh_north

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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