On Saturday, Oct. 6, at 7 a.m., Jeep and Harley-Davidson enthusiasts from Central Florida and beyond will begin to convene at East Lake Center on Bay Center Drive in Tampa, Fla., the starting point for the second annual Jeeps vs. Harleys charity convoy. The proceeds will benefit a number of local causes, including Ferrell Cares and Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS).
The assembled vehicles will line up at 9 a.m. and roll out at 9:30 sharp, beginning a 30-mile, police-escorted journey to the Sun ’n’ Fun Expo campus at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, where they will join a massive event that will include food and refreshments, live music and vendors selling Jeep and Harley parts, accessories, equipment and merchandise, and at least two big raffle prizes: a highly modified, customized and off-road-ready 2005 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and a 2003 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy.
It costs $15 per vehicle to participate in the convoy, and participation could easily double from 2017. Last year’s convoy included a total of more than 500 Jeeps and motorcycles, with Jeeps narrowly outnumbering Harleys. Organizer Al Feliz said Central Florida Jeepers will have to step up to maintain bragging rights.
“The word got out to the Harley community last year that the Jeeps took home the trophy, so word has it the Harleys are organizing and coming back strong,” says Feliz, who serves as vice president of Blackwater Jeepers, which has joined with Off-Road Alliance, Trail Monkeys 4×4 and Tri-County Jeepers to support the event.
The Stage Is Set
The inaugural Jeeps vs. Harleys was staged after only three months of planning. It was nevertheless a runaway success, attracting more than 1,000 participants and spectators, raising $16,000 in charitable donations, and setting the stage for 2018.
Although the convoy and the party went off without a hitch, JCF Publisher David Gesualdo identified a missing component: a “big” raffle prize; specifically, an off-road-ready Wrangler. He approached the groups with a proposition: The magazine would buy a used Jeep if the groups would build it into a trail-blasting beast.
They agreed, with Tri-County installing the suspension, lift, wheels and tires, Off-Road Alliance adding fenders and skid plates, Trail Monkeys responsible for the bumpers, a tire carrier, winch and Hi-Lift, and Blackwater is installing a snorkel and relocating the battery, installing lights, and handling all the finishing touches. Ferman Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of New Port Richey helped manage all four phases, sourcing parts, conducting routine maintenance and inspections, and providing leadership throughout the process. Proceeds from the Jeep raffle will be distributed to local charities in partnership with the four participating groups and Farrell Cares.
“I wanted to do something big for the charity — not just a donation,” Gesualdo says. “Thanks to the four groups and Ferman, we have a raffle prize for the ages and one that will undoubtedly sell tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets.”
Don’t Forget the Bikers
With the Jeep build underway, Gesualdo says, it occurred to organizers that one vehicle might not be enough. “Some Jeepers are also Harley riders, just as some Harley riders are also Jeepers, and both groups will be out in force. We wanted both groups to be represented with a big-ticket item.”
Enter the 2003 Fat Boy, donated by the magazine and purchased from Harley-Davidson of New Port Richey, where a number of upgrades were performed. The bike is ready to be handed over to a lucky Jeeps vs. Harleys attendee. Proceeds from the Harley-Davidson raffle will go to the West Central Florida chapter of COPS.
“We are anticipating a lot more Harley vendors and sponsors this year,” Feliz says. “But sponsorships and exhibit space are open to anyone who wants to reach a fantastic, fun-loving, civic-minded crowd at what promises to be a massive event.”
Speaking on behalf of the JCF staff, Gesualdo says he is proud that the magazine is associated with the event and inspired by the blood, sweat and tears organizers have poured into it. He encourages anyone in possession of a Jeep or a Harley to join the convoy, enjoy the party that follows, and enter to win the high-dollar items — including the vehicles as well as a long list of upgrades, accessories, merchandise and toys set to be raffled off — in support of our local charities.
“If you have never been in a convoy, you don’t know how cool it is,” says Gesualdo, who, along with his young son, Peter, was nominated to lead last year’s ride. “To see all those people, in all those vehicles, with the police escort — and to hear and feel all those engines revving — was one of the greatest moments of my life.”
Nuts and Bolts