The Sheriff Drives a Jeep

Are you ready for another opportunity to take that Jeep of yours for a spin? It’s time to get out there in your Jeep’s natural habitat and tackle steep inclines, mudholes and much more. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and his team are hosting the fifth annual Jeepin’ with Judd at Clear Springs Ranch in Bartow, Fla. The three-day event kicks off on Friday, Feb. 22, with proceeds to benefit Polk Sheriff’s Charities.

Judd says there will be more Jeeps, more spectators and longer trails than ever at this year’s event. Volunteers are building two-hour trails, because they don’t want anyone to wait to have fun.

“We’re fortunate Clear Springs allows us to use their 18,000-acre ranch. We use about 2,000 of it,” Judd says. “Last year, we had 400 campsites and 1,000 campers. Some of our Jeep enthusiasts came from as far away as Texas and California.”

Volunteer Power

Judd says preparations for the event requires the work of about 200 volunteers, 125 of whom come from the Orlando Jeep Club. “They have been our partners for several years and we want to give a shout-out to them for being totally awesome.”

Volunteers work for weeks in advance, mostly building and maintaining trails, wanting each year to be bigger and better than the last. With an attendance of 6,000 people and 1,600 Jeeps last year, 2019 seems poised to continue the exponential growth the event has had over the past four years. All 200 night rides are already sold out, as are all the motels in Bartow, Judd reports, which says a lot about the enthusiastic anticipation of this event.

The sheriff credits the excitement and growth in participation to the skills and dedication of the volunteers. He also feels they have created a truly family-friendly atmosphere. “It’s the kind of event you can bring your kids and grandkids to.”

Plus, he says, pre-order tickets are affordable at $60 a Jeep (or $80 at the gate), which can be loaded up with as many occupants as the Jeep has seatbelts. Specatators are invited to attend for free. Campsites are listed for $20/night. Trail difficulty will range from casual rides to technically advanced obstacle courses.

“Some of the courses are not challenging at all. They’re scenic. We’ve got something for everyone who wants to trail-ride through the woods, to a more challenging course with rocks and everything in between,” Judd says.

There is also a “cheep Jeep” up for grabs, a 2011 JK Sport donated by Kelley Buick GMC, that can be yours with the winning $20 raffle ticket — one of only 3,000 for sale. “And keep in mind, whenever you win a Jeep or any other prize, there’s a pretty steep federal tax involved. We pay that, so there’s no downside,” Judd says. “Buy your tickets early, because they will run out.”

The weekend will kick off with a huge gathering in downtown Bartow. Judd says the city has embraced the event, blocking off streets for a Friday-night show ’n’ shine and welcoming revelers to its bars and restaurants. He also stresses that the event is not just for hardcore off-roaders.

“If they don’t have a Jeep, they get in for free,” Judd says. “So come on out and enjoy. And if you don’t have a Jeep, maybe next year you’ll have a Jeep too.”

Nuts and Bolts

Grady Judd is the sheriff of Polk County, Fla., and part of the team of organizers and volunteers behind Jeepin’ with Judd, a three-day, family-friendly off-road event that begins Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, at Clear Springs Ranch in Bartow, Fla. For more information, visit or connect on Facebook.

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