My Pulse News

Mena, Arkansas, News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Jeep’n at the Ouachita Mountains Jeep Jam

By Jamie Hammack
Jeep owner and GM of Ouachita Broadcasting and The Polk County Pulse

If you want to name a few iconic American made cars and trucks that have woven their way into the fabric of our lives you can begin with vehicles like the Corvette, Mustang, and Ford F-Series. They have all been in production over 50 years each. Millions have been sold. But one reigns above them all. The odd-looking little vehicle called, the Jeep.

It began as an idea by the American military. Once the U.S. Government knew a war with Germany was imminent the word was put out to 135 manufacturers to create plans for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The manufacturers were given only 49 days as a deadline to submit those plans. Just two companies would reply. Willys-Overland and the American Bantam Car Company.
At Bantam a man named Karl Probst went to work and drafted plans in 2 days. The Army liked Bantam’s plans, but knew the company was small and lacked the ability to manufacture on the large scale required to move an army. So, the plans were given to Willys and Ford with instructions to make the vehicle better. Eventually the Willys design won final approval and the vehicle began production at both Ford and Willys.

Through the development process and initial manufacturing, the name “Jeep” was never in use. The Ford prototype was called the “Pygmy” and the Willys version, the “Quad.” Nobody really knows where the Jeep name came from. Some say it was a slang of GP (General-Purpose) and that Army grunts began to call it by its now famous name. The name stuck and today Jeeps are known world-wide as one of the best off-road vehicles you can buy.

And that brings us to the here and now, far from the former battlefields of Europe and The Pacific Islands where the Jeep first proved its worth. It brings us to the Ouachita Mountains Jeep Jam. Now, the Jeeps hitting the forest service roads and such this weekend will not have to dodge a German Panzer tank or a Japanese banzai attack. More than likely a participant in this weekend’s adventures will dodge a rut on the trail or a wayward squirrel crossing a dirt road at Shady. The chance of danger is quite low.

What will be high though is the amount of fun to be had. The Ouachita Mountains Jeep Jam is in its second year and starts this Friday and ends Saturday evening. The concept was developed by Vernon and Tonya Bayne, two locals with a love of Jeeps and offroading. Last year’s event was a big success. If I recall correctly, over 90 Jeeps were registered.

This year the Bayne’s have turned over the duties of organizing the Jeep Jam to Pasha Watson and the Mena Advertising & Promotions Commission. If you have a Jeep you really should participate. You’ll ride backroads, see beautiful sites, get out amongst nature and socialize with like-mind people.

Putting on an event like this is comparable to herding cats. Its time consuming and takes a lot of effort. The $25 registration fee goes towards the expenses and helps to bring the Jeep Jam back again next year. It takes money to put these things on folks. Let’s support them.

Naysayers like to gripe that there isn’t anything ever happening in this town. Well, here ya go. If you don’t have a Jeep you can still come out and watch the Jeeps at Tapley Park, visit the vendors and attend the Jeep show. Support local events!

Ok, off my soap box and onto the Jam. The Ouachita Mountains Jeep Jam has a little something for every Jeep owner. Friday night, Oct. 6, there is a meet and greet on the north side of Mena Street. A portion of Mena Street will be closed between the intersections of Church Avenue and Janssen Avenue from 5:30-9 p.m. This includes the intersections at Port Arthur Avenue Maple Avenue.

Saturday, Jeep owners will gather on the south side of Mena Street where the Poker Run through the mountains begins downtown on Mena Street with stops at Thibodeaux’s Country Store in Shady, The Big Fork Mall, The Cherry Hill Country Store, and lastly at Tapley Park in Mena. There will be a Jeep obstacle course at Tapley Park, a Jeep show and live music.

It’s another home-grown event that the entire county can be proud of. Gather the kids. Load up and come to the Second Annual Ouachita Mountains Jeep Jam this weekend in Mena.

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