Is It October Yet?

After a wildly successful 20th-anniversary event in October, the organizers behind Jeeptoberfest have set the bar high for 2018. Jeepin’ Central Florida caught up with Ocala Jeep Club’s Sean Montanye to learn more about the rich history of the club and the many charities it supports.

Sean, how long has Ocala Jeep Club been around, and what is your role? 

It started 21 years ago. Our founding father is Steve Felder, who served as vice president last year, and I’m the current president. We also nominate a secretary and a treasurer when we do our annual renewals in December.

Is Jeeptoberfest your only event? 

We also throw a year-end party at Doe Lake, a private property we lease so we can organize the charitable events and our members can enjoy it year-round. That’s also the site of Jeeptoberfest, and we modify the courses during the year to change it up for the event. There’s so much to do out there, including camping, kayaking and fishing.

And trails? 

Lots of trails! I’ve been riding those woods since I was 8 years old. There’s something for every skill level, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even attempt “Carnage Hill” — as long as you have 35-inch tires and lockers. It’s pretty gnarly.

Nuts and Bolts

Sean Montanye is the president of Ocala Jeep Club and sales manager for A-1 Tire Store in Ocala, Fla. OJC hosts the annual Jeeptoberfest, a family-friendly, three-day off-road event held at the Doe Lake Campground in Ocala National Forest.

Who designed the course? 

It’s a team effort, but Steve Felder is a very avid off-roader, as are the majority of the people who are hands-on in this club. I personally got started building miniature courses for R/C cars.

Where do you get your inspiration? 

Anywhere — you might see something in your head, be inspired by a picture, or have a random dream. Try it, fine-tune it, try a new angle or add dirt or rocks. You have to make adjustments to make it safe for everybody. We let the bigger, longer “minivans” test it first.

You mean the four-door Wranglers? 

Right! The four-door JK’s wheelbase is significantly longer, so we’ll test a new obstacle with one of those first. We want to make it comfortable and enjoyable for everybody.

How did you get into off-roading, and what do you drive? 

I’ve lived in Ocala pretty much my whole life, and I grew up going trail-riding with my cousins. I was a die-hard Toyota fan for years. My first Jeep was a 1986 CJ-7 that my cousin and I purchased and built together. But I’ll build or drive anything that goes off-road.

How did the idea for Jeeptoberfest come about? 

It started as a simple social gathering to get Jeepers together for one cause: the community. The money we raise is donated to multiple charities. Each year we vote on charities to support — one big recipient and five or six smaller causes. Last year, we raised over $125,00 after expenses and costs to put the show on. We normally have about $80,000 to give back.

What kind of equipment and materials does it take to change up the trails for the event? 

We rent tractors and excavators to move pilings and piping, and we budget a certain amount of money to buy concrete to build more permanent structures. Some of the ponds on the courses now have concrete bottoms. We know all those structures won’t wash away, we get good traction, and we don’t leave a bunch of ruts.

Just how big is this place? 

Our moderate course is over 2½ miles long. That’s an hour ride. At this year’s event, we had over 1,800 Jeeps with about three people per Jeep. It was a lot of people, and that’s not counting spectators.

What’s the cost to watch or ride? 

We try to keep it as low as possible. Spectator admission is $5, but kids 12 and under get in for free. This year’s registration cost was $70 per Jeep at the gate and $65 if you preregistered.

Which charities did you support this year? 

For 2017, we chose Food 4 Kids, Hospice of Marion County, Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, Transition Life Center and the Ocala Outreach Foundation. All six are related to kids or families.

With Food 4 Kids, for example, we fill 1,500 to 2,000 backpacks with canned goods, crackers, tuna — anything that can be donated or purchased — to give to kids when they leave school on Friday so they’ll have food to eat over the weekend. Kimberly’s Center is for women and children who have been physically or sexually abused. TLC helps kids with Down syndrome and other special needs transition into adulthood and gives them a place to work. When they built their facility, they actually named their basketball gym after us. Same for Ronald McDonald House, where parents of kids who are in out-of-town hospitals can stay. There’s an Ocala Jeep Club room there.

And we go beyond that. We set aside special funds for families in need at the holidays. Turkeys at Thanksgiving, trees at Christmas. If our neighbor’s house burns down, we’ll get some clothes and toys for the kids. We try to help our community any way we can.

Do you have anything new planned for 2018?

As of right now, our plan is to keep to the same routine. We don’t plan anything too big or extravagant months ahead of time. Once we have our first meeting in February or March, we will start putting things in motion — get our permits, make sure the porta potty and bounce house companies are still in business. We send thank-you letters to our vendors in January. Without them, we have nothing. They pay for their spot at the event and donate raffle prizes.

How can Jeepers who want to attend next year’s event connect with you? 

They can visit our website,, connect with us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram.

Jeepers Raise the Heat for Pasco County’s Bravest

On Saturday, Oct. 7, hundreds of ODT Jeeper members, friends, supporters and firefighters gathered at Fiddlers Green Irish Pub & Eatery in Trinity, Fla., for Raise the Heat for Pasco County Firefighters, an event that featured live music from the Bearded Brothers Band and raised thousands of dollars for the department.

To learn more about Raise the Heat and the group behind it, Jeepin’ Central Florida spoke with Ashlee Tew, president of ODT Jeepers, shortly after the event.

Ashlee, what’s your role in ODT Jeepers, and how long has the group been around?

Well, they’re all claiming I’m the president, so I guess I’ll go along with it! We started the group in March. We came up with the idea of having a small, local Jeep club for the Odessa/Trinity area — that’s how we got the name “ODT.”

Is charity work a big part of the group’s mission?

It is, but Raise the Heat was our first big event. We did a backpack drive for kids during back-to-school season, and we plan to hold a lot of smaller events and get involved in more charities. When we started the group, we mostly just wanted to have a good time in a fun, low-key, family-oriented group.

Who came up with the Raise the Heat idea? Are there any firefighters in the group?

We do have a couple retired firefighters in the group. But the idea really came from just wanting to do something for law enforcement or emergency services. We didn’t see a lot of charities for firefighters, so we picked them.

How long did it take to put the event together?

We first started about three months prior to the date of the event, but we really started hustling in the last month. We reached out to the Pasco County Firefighters and started spreading the word among other Jeep groups and in the community. We went on Facebook and Instagram and created a separate event page. We called and visited businesses to hang posters and put flyers on the windshields of parked Jeeps. If there was a Jeep that didn’t have an ODT banner or any other group’s sticker on it, they got a flyer.

I realize building up ODT Jeepers was not your primary goal, but did the group get any new members out of the event?

We actually bannered one Jeep at the event. We probably got a few Jeepers interested in what we do. But you have to take a couple steps to get that banner, working both in the community and with our club.

Did you have Fiddlers Green to yourselves?

The restaurant was open for business, and of course the band itself brings a pretty good crowd. The owner, Vince LaMattina, bought all the firefighters a free drink and covered the band’s fee, and the Bearded Brothers donated $250 back to the charity.

What was the event like?

It was awesome! It was also hectic, but it was a rush. I had never done anything like that before. It was really rewarding to put something like that together for our firefighters. Our community and the other local Jeep clubs really stepped up. The band was awesome. The firefighters brought a “Touch-a-Truck” firetruck for the kids, plus a bounce house provided by ODT Jeepers and a kids-only giveaway sponsored by JCF. We also had a silent auction. The big item was a full set of Jeep tires worth up to $1,300, courtesy of Trinity Auto Repair and Hercules Tires. And we raised a lot of money for our first event — just over $7,000!


Thank you, but I had a lot of help from our group members. I couldn’t have done it without them. David Gesualdo helped me tremendously. He guided me through the process and introduced me to other Jeep group leaders. My husband, Danny, Theo and Lynette Papapanos, Beverly Harris, Craig Kendall and Fred Golliner all stepped up to help organize the event and hand out flyers. I hate to leave anybody out, because those are really just a few of the many people who went out of their way to make the event possible. They’re the main reason it was so successful.

Any plans for a follow-up event?

We are definitely going to have another event. I’m not sure when or for what just yet. We are definitely open to ideas!

Nuts and Bolts

Ashlee Tew is president of ODT Jeepers and owner of Hair by Ashlee L. Tew in Trinity, Fla. The group’s first major charity event, Raise the Heat for Pasco County Firefighters, was held on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Fiddlers Green Irish Pub & Eatery and featured live music by the Bearded Brothers Band. The event drew hundreds of attendees and supporters and more than $7,000 in donations.

Justice League: Team Farrell Plans Third Annual Jeepin 4 Justice

Jeepin 4 Justice is a three-day Jeepin’ get-together set for Nov. 10–12 and hosted by Team Farrell. It will be held at the Concourse Rotary Pavilion in Shady Hills, Fla., with proceeds to support numerous local charities and the Pasco County Sheriff’s K-9 unit. This off-road weekend is full of custom Jeep trails, live music and great prizes for attendees — you can even win a Wrangler, courtesy of Ferman Jeep of New Port Richey.

Jeepin’ Central Florida caught up with Tina Farrell, co-owner (with husband Steve) of Team Farrell, to learn more about the event and what attendees can expect.

How long have you been doing Jeepin 4 Justice?

This will be our second year but the third event. We had a single-day ride in May at the same location. November is the main event.

Nuts and Bolts

Team Farrell presents the third annual Jeepin 4 Justice, a three-day, off-road charity weekend scheduled for Nov. 10–12 at the Concourse Rotary Pavilion in Shady Hills, Fla. The cost per Jeep (up to four people) is $60 for early registration or $70 at the gate. Single-day passes are $35 for early registration or $45 at the gate. Spectators may enter for $3 each (cash only) at the gate. Register online at

Is the weather a concern?

We’ve always have had great weather. The event goes on, rain or shine. Jeepers love the mud!

Any tips for a happy camping experience?

Motorhomes are great if you have one. If you register now, camping is free. The camping area is nice. There is a pavilion with a bathroom and hookups for the motorhomes.

How far is it from the trails and event area?

The event area is walkable if you plan on coming without a Jeep. Spectators are able to watch the obstacle course area and are encouraged to come.

Why a Jeepin’ event?

I have really enjoyed attending other Jeep events. We have such a great Jeep community. Even the sheriff jumped on board the first year by buying a Jeep. He started the Pasco County Search & Rescue Unit after our event. It was a big win for our community to get Jeeps involved in search-and-rescue missions.

What was the original goal?

We wanted to support the K-9 unit. The first event brought in enough to get a dog. They named him “Farrell.”

What’s new for Jeepin 4 Justice III?

We have two night rides instead of one this year. The trails have been more developed. We now have different levels, some a little more difficult and some less difficult. For the kids, we added a kid-sized obstacle course with sponsored, sticker-wrapped Power Wheels. There is a small course where we will be doing an event for them. We also have a new vendor that is coming with remote control cars.

Tell me more about the charities you support with this event.

It has always been important to our family to invest in our community and give back. I am on the chair of a lot of events around Pasco County. All the proceeds of Jeepin 4 Justice stay local. We live in this community and we want to do so much for this community.

The first year, we did it for the K-9 unit, Racing for Vets, two women’s shelters and the SPCA. This year, we are going to count how many Jeeps come in for each club. First through third place will get to pick their charity and tell us who they want to receive funding. Some proceeds will still go to K-9. They need infrared lights and we hope to get them all covered.

Our 10 committee members for Jeepin 4 Justice, who volunteer their time and energy during the event, each get to pick a charity to send $500. Our intention is to have the collected funds spread out to as many groups or individuals as we can. By having the people who are working the event choose who to give money to, we are able to make sure multiple needs are cared for.

What other events do you hold?

We are working every day on events and community support. We have started our own 501(c)3, Farrell Cares, and now own an event center where we will be feeding people the day after Thanksgiving. We just bought sneakers for kids going back to school. We worked with the community to fix a woman’s roof that was caving in.

But Jeepin’ is my heart. This is an event we started and it means a lot to us. I am excited to see it grow and do well. Everyone who is involved does it from their heart and soul.

How did the trails get made?

I am on the Safety Town board and the Concourse committee. I proposed to have these trails made, and the committee loved the idea.

Are the trails for all Jeeps?

There is something for everyone. Stock Jeeps to built-out Jeeps can all have a great time.

What is available for more technical vehicles?

We have developed the trails to have a range of obstacles — deep mudholes, rocks and logs. We have a sandpit as well.

Are there spotters on the trails?

We have spotters throughout all the trails. They are volunteers that are part of the committee. They are all really helpful and amazing people.

How do the night rides work?

All Jeeps stay together and follow each other. We have a trail leader at the front and the back of the group. Anyone can do it. The night course is more basic. We have to keep it safe. It starts at 10 p.m. and usually goes until after midnight. We will be gathering the night riders later this year so everyone can enjoy the bands.

Are there mechanics on hand?

Jeepers work as a team; everybody helps each other. If you need something, just ask, and we will be more than happy to help. We love this community for that very reason.

Any food or prizes?

Our food vendors make amazing meals and have the same kind of love that we have for the community. Everyone who attends will receive a goody bag full of great stuff from our sponsors. There are a few different ways to win big prizes from our sponsors. There’s a 50/50 raffle and a bingo game for all the vendors. If you visit each vendor’s booth, you will get a stamp on your bingo card from them for another raffle.

And what about the big prize, an off-road-ready Jeep?

Yes, it is a 2002 Jeep Wrangler. Visit the website for more information or come to the event for your chance to take it home!

If someone wants to sponsor or donate, whom should they contact?

Call me anytime to ask questions or donate at (727) 845-7663 or through

Jeeps and Harleys Convoy for a Cause

Jeepin’ Central Florida caught up with Al Feliz, vice president of Blackwater Jeepers Tampa, as he was preparing to join the group to head south to Naples, Fla. He was packing up leftover food from his stash of hurricane emergency resources for a relief trip after Hurricane Irma. The Blackwater Jeepers are all about charity, Feliz explains, they just like to do it their way — coming to the aid of families and communities directly, themselves: “Neighbors helping neighbors.”

Held on Sunday, Aug. 20, the group’s first annual Jeep vs. Harley event was a massive success. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from goodhearted folks, Feliz says the Blackwater Jeepers were pleasantly surprised with how well it all went.

Why did you want to link up the Jeep and Harley communities?

When we started talking about possible fun events, we realized it was a clear opportunity to capitalize on the natural rivalry of these two large and generous groups. They both truly enjoy doing these events for their community.

Our president, Coty Byers, came up with the idea to do Jeep vs. Harley, giving a trophy to the group who had more vehicles show up. We approached our friends in the Harley community and proposed the idea to do it for charity. They were interested.

What does “charity work” mean to The Blackwater Jeepers of Tampa?

It’s not about hosting events or publicity. It’s about bringing and keeping the Jeeping community together outside of larger, often tragic events. The help and camaraderie seems to fizzle after the community bands together to get back on track. A supported community maintains the momentum of helping your neighbors by growing local morale and participation.

How did you come up with the idea for the convoy?

We convoyed from Bradenton, Fla. to Citrus County Speedway a few years ago to show our support for local law enforcement. During that event, some people approached us to give money to charity. That convoy wasn’t for charity, but it got us thinking.

What did you originally envision for the event?

The vision was to have Harleys and Jeeps all lined up in Safety Town. To our knowledge, there hadn’t been a 50-mile convoy for charity before. We thought it was going to be small.

What is Safety Town?

Pasco Sheriff’s Safety Town is an area set in the woods where they built a little town. It is actually miniature, with paved roads and child-sized buildings. They take elementary kids on field trips to show them about crosswalks, red lights, railroad tracks, etc. There’s even a mini Home Depot and McDonald’s.

What was the plan for the convoy?

It was a total of 52 miles from Brandon, Fla., to Pasco Sheriff’s Safety Town in Shady Hills, Fla.

Did you shut down streets?

We were going to wing it. As we were closing in on the event date and more people were planning on showing up, we contacted the Pasco County Sheriff. We didn’t want to be broken up. A “non-voy” doesn’t make the same impact.

We started in Hillsborough, took Interstate Highway 75 as a straight shot to state Route 52, and on to Safety Town. Two Jeepers blocked the right lane. We started rolling everyone out onto I-75. A motorist thought it was a protest and called the police. A few deputies showed up and asked us what were up to. Both of the deputies were Jeepers and ended up blocking the road. Pasco County officers picked up the convoy on Route 52 and escorted the group to Safety Town.

Nuts and Bolts

On Sunday, Aug. 20, Blackwater Jeepers of Tampa held the first annual Jeep vs. Harley event. Participants drove 518 Jeeps and Harley-Davidson motorcycles 52 miles from Brandon, Fla., to Pasco Sheriff’s Safety Town in Shady Hills, Fla. The convoy raised $16,000 for Krawl’n for the Fallen and Jeepin4Justice.

Tell me about the charities that you are working with.

We didn’t want to divide the Jeep community, so we decided to split the proceeds 50/50 between Krawl’n for the Fallen and Jeepin4Justice.

Krawl’n for the Fallen is an organization that raises money for Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), a national charity for the families of police officers killed in the line of duty. They act as a source for funding counseling, peer-support, scholarships and many other assistance programs.

Jeepin4Justice is a massive, three-day fundraising event and campout that benefits numerous local charities.

What did you have for vendors and prizes?

We had food trucks, and the Blackwater Jeepers chipped in as a group for hamburgers and hot dogs. All our profit from the Blackwater stand went to the charities. There were tons of prizes from the local gun shop and the other sponsors with all the proceeds from the raffles going to charity. An AR-15, a Springfield .40-caliber XDS, and a pink 9-millimeter. It was a family-friendly event with special prizes for the kids, like little motorcycles and Jeeps.

What was the total turnout?

There were 518 total vehicles. We counted them from an overpass on I-75. The vehicles had to be in the convoy to be counted for the trophy. Each Jeep had a few people; many Harleys had two. There were over 1,000 people at the venue.

How were the Jeeps looking?

The Jeeper turnout was a great balance between the meticulously kept show machines and the rugged outback rigs. Many Jeepers who hadn’t experienced the Jeep community at large were very excited to see all the variety.

Who took home the trophy?

Jeep took home the trophy and bragging rights for total amount of vehicles. The final count was 338 Jeeps and 180 Harleys. One of the biggest sponsors, Ferman Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of New Port Richey, accepted the trophy on behalf of the Jeeps.

The trophy was custom made for the event?

Yes. It is a handmade one-of-a-kind from Jeep and Harley parts welded together. The guy who made it fabricated a grill and V-twin engine, topped with a Blackwater reaper. It weighs 35 pounds. We plan to have it passed off from year to year.

How much money did you make for the charities?

This was Blackwater’s very first charitable event. We expected about $500 dollars for each charity. We ended up raising $16,000 — splitting it between the charities, $8,000 each.

Who sponsored?

Ferman Jeep of New Port Richey, Harley-Davidson of New Port Richey and Team Farrell were our biggest sponsors.

What are your expectations for next year?

Next year, we are expecting more Harleys to come out. There was a healthy dose of online rousing between the two groups. The trophy being sponsored and passed on each year excites the competitive nature. There has been a lot of people joining our Blackwater Jeepers Facebook page. In a month, we had almost 200 people join the page. Half of them were people who owned Jeeps and Harleys. There were many people wondering which to bring to this event, Jeep or Harley, and ended up bringing both. We are interested to see if that changes next year.

Anything you’d like to say to the group that showed up?

The reason why this was such a huge success was because of the teamwork of the Blackwater Jeepers of Tampa, the major support of the Harley and Jeep communities and, of course, our sponsors. We couldn’t have done it without all of you.