Jeep owners make long treks for Jamboree
COAL TOWNSHIP - After making a 1,130-mile journey across five states, Gene and Jean Parise, of Carlton, Minn., stood in line atop Burnside Mountain south of Shamokin Thursday evening, waiting to confirm their registration and pick the trails they will ride today and Saturday in the inaugural Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree.
For the Parises, both 68, this will be the 18th time they've participated in an event sponsored by Jeep Jamboree USA (JJUSA), a California-based organization that will have 31 events nationwide in 2012. They usually head west for jamborees, but this one had special appeal.
"You love to be a part of the inaugural event," Gene Parise said. "The minute registration opened up online, I was in."
So were 108 other Jeep owners who will participate in this weekend's event at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA), some 6,000 acres of forest and
abandoned coal lands that Northumberland County officials hope to build into a tourist attraction and economic stimulus. The park is not yet an official entity, but the county has begun hosting events on the land to generate interest and partnerships.
For the Coal Mountain Jamboree, participants from 18 states begin filing into the dirt roads and grassy parking area just off of Route 125 in Burnside at about 4 p.m. Thursday. They put their vehicles in line for evaluation, then waited for the registration tent to open to get trail passes. JJUSA said 211 riders will be in the 109 vehicles registered.
The Jeeps will stage just off the highway this morning, then split into six groups. Three groups will ride on AOAA property on the east side of the highway, and the other three on the west side. In each case, they will travel on trails that are either "green" for beginners and stock vehicles, "blue" for "moderately modified" vehicles "black" for the most challenging.
'Poisond' and sisters
The jamboree will be a family outing for sisters Staci Smith, of St. Johnsberry, Vt., and Ginger Therrien, of Danville, Vt.
"This is our 10th jamboree, but my husband, Tim, and I have been off-roading since we were in high school," Smith said.
The sisters will take on the most extreme trails in their Jeeps, Smith's named "Poisond" for her affinity to use aftermarket parts manufactured by Poison Spyder, Therrien's named Jezebel in a nod to her grandmother.
"We called her Jezebel because my grandmother used to say that if a girl causes trouble in the house, she's a jezebel. Well, with all the trouble and everything we've spent to get her ready for Jamborees, the name fits," Therrien said.
Jeeps are a fascination for some people, said local coordinator Steve Risk, of Quarryville, Lancaster County, who was at the AOAA property already on Thursday morning.
"When Jeep first came out, there were jokes that Jeep stood for Just Empty Every Pocket," he said. "Jeep has evolved, but there's always a way to have bigger tires, better shocks and its just grows from there."
Jean Parise said she couldn't guess how much money she and her husband have spent customizing the Jeep they towed in with a trailer from Minnesota, but did say, "It's a money pit at times."
Safety a priority
Trail guide Brian Moyer, of Reading, was among those who evaluated the vehicles.
"We are looking for things like first-aid kits, CB radios, lockers to hold items in, checking for any kind of fluid leaks," he said. "We want to keep everyone safe."
Items novices often forget are spill kits and plastic bags.
"When you are out on the trail, some of the rocks could put a hole in an oil pan," Moyer said. "The plastic bag will keep the oil from running out and the kit cleans up the mess. We want to keep the property as it was when we came here."
Also in terms of safety, JJUSA states on its website that the trail ride is a non-alcoholic event, and no alcoholic beverages are allowed on the property.
Risk is pleased with the turnout and the opportunity to bring this event to the AOAA, noting it sold out in 15 hours when JJUSA posted it on its website.
"This will be the first organized four-wheel event for the AOAA, and we are pleased that we could come and present it," said Risk.
Northumberland County is the fourth location in eastern Pennsylvania to host a Jeep Jamboree USA event, but noted that Mount Airy Lodge, Jack Frost and Big Boulder Ski Lodge and the former Paragon Adventure Park near Hazleton no longer host such events.
50 lunches sold
A number of participants gathered Thursday were talking about their stop at Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville on their way into the area. County officials hope that the AOAA attracts families who will also visit local tourist attractions, also including Knoebels Amusement Resort and Pioneer Tunnel.
One Smart Cookie, of Coal Township, was having a boom of business at registration, selling bagged lunches to be served this weekend.
"We have about 50 lunches sold in the first hour for tomorrow," said owner Jen Marshall. "That's a great sign."
A dinner catered by Chef Jeff's Food Food Food of Shamokin will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at the East Cameron Township Fire Company grounds. Pet Rock, a band from Elysburg, will provide entertainment during Friday's dinner.
Zimmerman Chrysler Dodge Jeep of Sunbury will sponsor the band and other jamboree expenses.
Friendship Fire Company of Shamokin will serve breakfast today and Saturday at the launch area.
The weekend will conclude with a dinner for all participants and trail guides from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Masser's Wayside Inn in Weigh Scales.
Pat Mack, director of the Northumberland County Planning Department, which is overseeing development of AOAA, said the property is not open to anyone else this weekend while JJUSA is in town. The jamboree will not be a competitive event like the Valley Forge Trail Riders Anthracite Hare Scrambles held on June 30-July 1. Because it is a participant event, there is no opportunity for spectators.