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.
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.