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A Jeep splashes through the mud pit during Saturday’s Jeepfest at Pearson Park in Neshannock Township. On board were LeeAnn Stumm of Cranberry Township, her husband, Ed, and son Jacob. — Jeanette Robison/NEWS

On Saturday, 393 Jeeps rocked and rolled their way through Pearson Park at the Heritage Region Jeep Alliance annual Jeepfest.

With 250 members from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and as far away as Canada, alliance members are proof that the legacy of the Jeep lives on.

For the past six years, the park has opened its gates to the club and “the event gets bigger and better every year,” according to Rick West, club president.

“The purpose of Jeepfest is to have a great family oriented event, where people can get to know what their Jeep vehicles can do,” Melanie West, events director, explained.

The obstacle course was the perfect place for that. It consisted of a rock crawl and mud pit. The rock crawl was fun to watch as the Jeeps slowly climbed up and over a pile of rocks, trying not to tumble over. After leveling out on solid ground, it was time to play in the mud.

This is where the good, clean, family fun got downright dirty.

LeeAnn Stumm, 35, of Cranberry Township, “borrowed” a 1985 CJ7 from her sister. And with husband Ed, 39, and son Jacob, 9, along for the ride, she made her way through the mud for her first time.

Excited by her victory, all she could say was, “I want to go again!”

After waiting in line, one by one the Jeeps would take a chance at getting stuck or going all the way.

There was a feeling of grief when a Jeep got stuck and a cheer when one would finally plow through to the other side.

Ben DiCola, 29, of Neshannock, was ready and willing to pull out any victims of the mud pit with his 1974 CJ5. When newcomers, Andy Manfred, 19, and Brent Crater, 20, of Butler, were asked what they thought of the whole mud pit experience, both replied, “Awesome!”

After a quick rinse, it was off to the trail ride that tumbled through the woods behind the baseball fields and ended up at the Hutchison Center.

Neshannock Boy Scout Troop 743 was on hand to offer food and ice cold refreshments to the crowd during the off-road, four-wheeling excitement.

In the shady area of the park, Jeeps of all colors, makes and models lined the lawn. A friendly competition among participants was conducted and trophies were awarded.

Under the pavilion, starting at 11:30 a.m., more than $7,000 worth of donated prizes were awarded every hour.

Geralyn Cantanese, Alliance membership director, noted that, “many people attend the event, not only for the Jeep camaraderie, but also for the incredible prizes.”

Of special interest was the Jeep history tent, where a storyboard and video display traced the Jeep’s history from the beginning on Sept. 23, 1940, to present day. Jeep history was a big part of every family history there. Looking around it was evident, owning a Jeep is definitely a family affair.

And for the future Jeep generation, there was a children’s area with games, a bounce house, and Rainbow the clown, who performed balloon tricks and face painting.

At the close of the event, a parade of Jeeps cruised to Butler, the birthplace of the Jeep. It was a historical moment for the 1,200 participants of Jeepfest to end the day’s fun in the region where it began.

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