Saturday, May 18, 2024

Hildo: Toledo Loves Its Jeep

We’ve been writing this column for a very long time. Too long, if you listen to our critics. Screw ‘em, by the way.

Whoopsie, there we go again! All too often we lapse from tried ‘n true satirical ribbing into all-out negativity. This column will be different. This column will celebrate ol’ Froggy Bottom with the onset of the latest in a long line of summer festivals: Jeep Fest!

Lovin’ the swamp

Face it. For all our griping about corruption and sheer lunacy in City Politics, there’s lots to love about our lil’ corner of the swamp. We have the community accessibility of a mid-size city with lots of the amenities of a much larger metropolis.

There are the vibrant downtown main drags in old school suburbs like Perrysburg, Maumee and Sylvania. There’s the downtown Lunch at Levis concert series, featuring live local music and local food trucks. There’s great restaurants, from old staples to creative new choices. For the sports enthusiast, there are minor league and collegiate sports in world-class venues. For the outdoors types there are fantastic metroparks and the river and lake for all types of excursions.

The Toledo Zoo! The library system! The Symphony, Toledo Ballet, Toledo Opera! The greatest week in birding! The Downtown and Adams Street open container districts! Concerts at the Zoo and at Huntington! The list is way too long for one column.

And then there’s summer festivals. Out-of-towners are stunned by our love of festivals. Neighborhood, ethnic, church, and food festivals. Art, music, identity and charity festivals. You name it, we prob have a festival to celebrate it. Heck, we have a festival to celebrate a mural on Adams Street.

World class T-town

Yet somehow we waited until recently to celebrate what truly makes our little slice of paradise world class. Our Zoo is great, and we love our Hens, but lots of places have zoos and sports. Our metroparks rock, but so does Cleveland’s Emerald Necklace. Put succinctly, we are blessed as a city, but so are lots of other places.

There are two things that draw visitors from across the globe. One is our art museum. Our collection includes unique pieces folks travel thousands of miles to see, like Monet’s Water Lilies. The Art Glass Movement started right here, and that history draws seekers from far and wide.

Our other world-class claim to fame is the Jeep. The iconic Willys Overland all-purpose vehicle designed for military use in World War II is now celebrated around the world for its rugged off-road capabilities. There are Jeep enthusiasts literally everywhere. And it all began in the T!

Yet until recently the largest Jeep gathering was in Moab, Utah.

It’s long past time that we bring Jeep Fest home.  Now expanded to three days, this year’s fest features an off-road course, rock climbing, music, food trucks, kids and family zones, a beer garden, vendors, indoor and outdoor exhibits and a Jeep parade. 

Next steps would include a permanent dedicated off-road challenge course and Jeep museum. Let’s bring the world here year-round to celebrate our industrial workforce and heritage. Let’s raise the funds, get the site, do the work and make it happen.

Let’s say, loud and proud, that Toledo loves its Jeep!

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