2017-04-27 / Front Page

Jeep the Mac Grows in Popularity

Enthusiasts Love Mackinac Bridge Convoy, Then Riding St. Ignace and Drummond Island Trails
By Erich T. Doerr

Bob and Bobbi Shepherd of Almont brought their freshly restored 1956 Willys-Overland CJ5 to St. Ignace to be a part of the Jeep the Mac parade. Mr. Shepherd’s Jeep is a civilian model, but he restored it in the style of a Korean War military vehicle, in part to honor his father, Raymond Shepherd, who served in the conflict and spent almost three years as a prisoner of war in North Korea. The star painted on the hood is new but deliberately painted to appear aged. Bob and Bobbi Shepherd of Almont brought their freshly restored 1956 Willys-Overland CJ5 to St. Ignace to be a part of the Jeep the Mac parade. Mr. Shepherd’s Jeep is a civilian model, but he restored it in the style of a Korean War military vehicle, in part to honor his father, Raymond Shepherd, who served in the conflict and spent almost three years as a prisoner of war in North Korea. The star painted on the hood is new but deliberately painted to appear aged. The second-annual Jeep the Mac all-Jeep crossing of the Mackinac Bridge Friday, April 21, included 679 Jeeps and about 1,500 people riding from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City. Jeep owners from throughout the Midwestern United States and Canada came to be a part of the action.

The inaugural Jeep the Mac crossing last year attracted 417 Jeeps, event organizers, including St. Ignace Visitors Bureau Executive Director Gina Stegehuis, set a goal of 500 Jeeps this year. Their expectations were shattered as 629 Jeeps preregistered for the crossing before another 50 registered the day of the event. The weather was perfect for the crossing, with sun and warmer temperatures arriving just in time for the rally Friday afternoon.


There were many unusual Jeeps in the Jeep the Mac crossing of the Mackinac Bridge, with Maxx Anderson (right) bringing her 2003 “Aztec Gold” Wrangler Sport, and her friend Allison Vallier, to the event. Jeep only offered the “Aztec Gold” color during the 2003 model year, so out of the nearly 700 Jeeps in the parade, only three were painted in this rare shade. There were many unusual Jeeps in the Jeep the Mac crossing of the Mackinac Bridge, with Maxx Anderson (right) bringing her 2003 “Aztec Gold” Wrangler Sport, and her friend Allison Vallier, to the event. Jeep only offered the “Aztec Gold” color during the 2003 model year, so out of the nearly 700 Jeeps in the parade, only three were painted in this rare shade. “This went really well,” Mrs. Stegehuis said. “Parking came out great because of our volunteers… People complimented our strong organization.”

All of the Jeeps lined up before the procession at Little Bear East Arena with the first arriving at 9 a.m. in preparation for the 3 p.m. crossing. Registration began at 10 a.m. inside the building alongside several vendor displays and a fundraising sale for Mackinac County Child Protection Roundtable. The high number of Jeeps filled the parking lot to near capacity with some of the later arrivals staging in the grassy area in front of the arena. When the pa- rade began, it took almost a halfhour for all of the Jeeps to leave. Mrs. Stegehuis said they had so many Jeeps in this year’s parade that by the time the last Jeep left for the bridge, some of the earliest ones in the line were already returning to the arena for the planned afternoon activities, including refreshments and live music.


At right: The Mackinac County Child Protection Roundtable held fundraising efforts inside the Little Bear East Arena Friday, April 21, in conjunction with the registration period of the Jeep the Mac. Here (from left) Roundtable Vice President Julie Lipnitz and volunteers Nancy Lee and Erin Holt show off a table of water bottles and pinwheels that the organization had on sale as it promoted April’s status as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The organization also sold a variety of refreshments, including water, candy, fruit, juice, popcorn, and other treats at a second table. The Roundtable will organize a pinwheel walk to raise awareness about child abuse prevention Thursday, April 27, in downtown St. Ignace. At right: The Mackinac County Child Protection Roundtable held fundraising efforts inside the Little Bear East Arena Friday, April 21, in conjunction with the registration period of the Jeep the Mac. Here (from left) Roundtable Vice President Julie Lipnitz and volunteers Nancy Lee and Erin Holt show off a table of water bottles and pinwheels that the organization had on sale as it promoted April’s status as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The organization also sold a variety of refreshments, including water, candy, fruit, juice, popcorn, and other treats at a second table. The Roundtable will organize a pinwheel walk to raise awareness about child abuse prevention Thursday, April 27, in downtown St. Ignace. “We wanted 500 but we were prepared for anything,” Mrs. Stegehuis said. “Even with these big numbers, everything went right.”


At left: East Jordan resident Eugene “Skipper” Plite and his companion, Peggy Johnson, had one of the most unusual entries in the Jeep the Mac crossing with this 1948 Willys-Overland Jeepster that they drove to the event. The vehicle was one of the oldest in the parade and took a spot of honor near the front of the procession. The Jeepster, a windowless roadster Jeep, was only made for three years from 1948 to 1950. Mr. Plite’s example still has its original engine and made a cross-country track from St. Augustine, Florida, to Imperial Beach, California. At left: East Jordan resident Eugene “Skipper” Plite and his companion, Peggy Johnson, had one of the most unusual entries in the Jeep the Mac crossing with this 1948 Willys-Overland Jeepster that they drove to the event. The vehicle was one of the oldest in the parade and took a spot of honor near the front of the procession. The Jeepster, a windowless roadster Jeep, was only made for three years from 1948 to 1950. Mr. Plite’s example still has its original engine and made a cross-country track from St. Augustine, Florida, to Imperial Beach, California. The Jeeps in Friday’s procession included almost every imaginable model, classics from decades past sharing the road with the showroomfresh. Many were customized, from their paint to lifted suspensions. The afternoon parade route took them from Little Bear East down Marquette Street and through downtown on State Street and to the bridge. They took many routes through Mackinaw City before returning north.


Jeeps were a very common sight on both sides of the Straits of Mackinac Bridge Friday, April 21, as the Jeep the Mac procession of 679 Jeeps made its way across the Mackinac Bridge from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City. Once the Jeeps reached Mackinaw City, the parade went off in all directions as participants took in the sights, stopped for a bite to eat, or made their way back to St. Ignace. Here a trio of Jeep Wranglers can be seen making their way south on North Nicolet Street in Mackinaw City, the Jeep at left having pulled over to let faster traffic pass, while the bridge, the Straits, and Colonial Michilimackinac provide a scenic backdrop to the action. Jeeps were a very common sight on both sides of the Straits of Mackinac Bridge Friday, April 21, as the Jeep the Mac procession of 679 Jeeps made its way across the Mackinac Bridge from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City. Once the Jeeps reached Mackinaw City, the parade went off in all directions as participants took in the sights, stopped for a bite to eat, or made their way back to St. Ignace. Here a trio of Jeep Wranglers can be seen making their way south on North Nicolet Street in Mackinaw City, the Jeep at left having pulled over to let faster traffic pass, while the bridge, the Straits, and Colonial Michilimackinac provide a scenic backdrop to the action. Friday’s crossing was followed by a day of fun, trail riding, and Jeepthemed activities on Drummond Island Saturday, April 22.


Coldwater resident David Hall and his customized 2011 Jeep Patriot await the start of the 2017 Jeep the Mac crossing in the parking lot of the Little Bear East Arena. Mr. Hall’s Jeep was decorated with graphics and equipment for the fictional “Umbrella Corporation,” an organization from the “Resident Evil” series of movies and video games. His Jeep has aftermarket wheels, custom lights, and sirens. Coldwater resident David Hall and his customized 2011 Jeep Patriot await the start of the 2017 Jeep the Mac crossing in the parking lot of the Little Bear East Arena. Mr. Hall’s Jeep was decorated with graphics and equipment for the fictional “Umbrella Corporation,” an organization from the “Resident Evil” series of movies and video games. His Jeep has aftermarket wheels, custom lights, and sirens. By far the most popular entrants were Jeep Wranglers, the classic offroader seen in a wide variety of colors and trims. Otto and Brittney Hopkins of Wheatfield, Indiana, were among the many first-time entrants. Their choice of wheels was a bright “Hyper Green” 2016 Wrangler Unlimited Sport. The couple bought the Wrangler new after much looking, and customized it with 17- inch wheels. The couple took part in Jeep the Mac after taking a color tour here last October and hearing about the crossing from friends.

Petoskey residents Kate and Jim Scollin were the very first people to register for the 2017 Jeep the Mac all-Jeep crossing of the Mackinac Bridge, which took place Friday, April 21. The pair registered themselves and Mrs. Scollin’s 2001 Jeep Wrangler Sport for a spot in the event back in January. They frequently visit the Upper Peninsula, often taking in the sights in the Les Cheneaux Islands area, and while it isn’t visible here, their Jeep even has a U.P.-themed license plate befitting this use. Petoskey residents Kate and Jim Scollin were the very first people to register for the 2017 Jeep the Mac all-Jeep crossing of the Mackinac Bridge, which took place Friday, April 21. The pair registered themselves and Mrs. Scollin’s 2001 Jeep Wrangler Sport for a spot in the event back in January. They frequently visit the Upper Peninsula, often taking in the sights in the Les Cheneaux Islands area, and while it isn’t visible here, their Jeep even has a U.P.-themed license plate befitting this use. “I’m excited,” Mr. Hopkins said. “On the way here we were consistently passing Jeeps.”


At left; This superpowered entry in the 2017 Jeep the Mac parade belonged to (from left) Sarah, Jenna, and Ryan Miller of Mt. Morris, who came to St. Ignace with their 2016 Jeep Renegade “Dawn of Justice” Edition. The Jeep is the result of a product placement deal that saw a black Renegade like this one featured in the 2016 movie “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The Millers decided to get one after seeing it at the Detroit Auto Show, as the vehicle is a good fit for their family. Renegades are unique among Jeeps in that they are made in Italy. At left; This superpowered entry in the 2017 Jeep the Mac parade belonged to (from left) Sarah, Jenna, and Ryan Miller of Mt. Morris, who came to St. Ignace with their 2016 Jeep Renegade “Dawn of Justice” Edition. The Jeep is the result of a product placement deal that saw a black Renegade like this one featured in the 2016 movie “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The Millers decided to get one after seeing it at the Detroit Auto Show, as the vehicle is a good fit for their family. Renegades are unique among Jeeps in that they are made in Italy. “It’s cool to see all these Jeeps here,” Mrs. Hopkins added. “Every one has been customized.”


The parking lot of Little Bear East Arena served as the staging area for the Jeep the Mac parade Friday, April 21. Here, drivers are getting ready to depart just minutes before the start of the parade after the conclusion of its mandatory drivers’ meeting. The Jeep at the front of the lineup here is a Commander, a model made by the company from 2005 to 2010. The parking lot of Little Bear East Arena served as the staging area for the Jeep the Mac parade Friday, April 21. Here, drivers are getting ready to depart just minutes before the start of the parade after the conclusion of its mandatory drivers’ meeting. The Jeep at the front of the lineup here is a Commander, a model made by the company from 2005 to 2010. The crossing drew a number of rare Jeeps from the earliest years on the civilian market, including the 1948 Willys-Overland Jeepster, owned by Eugene “Skipper” Plite and Peggy Johnson of East Jordan, which was given a place of honor near the front of the procession. They returned early from their winter home on the Gulf of Mexico to be a part of the parade.


At left: Kris Kangas of Newberry was one of the Eastern Upper Peninsula entrants in the Jeep the Mac parade with his 1997 Jeep Cherokee XJ. Mr. Kangas is an auxiliary deputy for the Luce County Sheriff’s Office and uses his Jeep as a backup vehicle for the department, thus its police lights and sirens. He’s customized the Jeep with 33-inch tires and a ride height 3.3 inches above that of the standard model. At left: Kris Kangas of Newberry was one of the Eastern Upper Peninsula entrants in the Jeep the Mac parade with his 1997 Jeep Cherokee XJ. Mr. Kangas is an auxiliary deputy for the Luce County Sheriff’s Office and uses his Jeep as a backup vehicle for the department, thus its police lights and sirens. He’s customized the Jeep with 33-inch tires and a ride height 3.3 inches above that of the standard model. The Jeepster, a roadster with no side windows, was one of the origi- nal civilian variations of the Jeep to hit the market. Mr. Plite’s Jeep still has its original Jeep running gear, including the stock four-cylinder engine. He has owned the car for seven years and restored its interior, curtains, and wiring, rebuilt the engine, and added seat belts. The work paid off as the Jeep completed a 6,240- mile ocean-to-ocean trip from St. Augustine, Florida, to Imperial Beach, California, and back with six other Jeepsters.


The second annual Jeep the Mac all-Jeep parade and Mackinac Bridge crossing saw 679 Jeeps make their way through downtown St. Ignace Friday afternoon. Here three Jeep Wranglers near the front of the parade line up round a corner on a State Street as they traverse through the downtown St. Ignace portion of the route. The second annual Jeep the Mac all-Jeep parade and Mackinac Bridge crossing saw 679 Jeeps make their way through downtown St. Ignace Friday afternoon. Here three Jeep Wranglers near the front of the parade line up round a corner on a State Street as they traverse through the downtown St. Ignace portion of the route. “We love to see all the people here and meet new ones,” Mr. Plite said. “We always draw a lot of attention.”

Another historic Jeep in the parade was the freshly restored 1956 Willys- Overland CJ5 owned by Bob and Bobbi Shepherd of Almont. The Korean War-themed entrant was still being worked on Thursday, April 20, before it was brought north for the crossing.

The Shepherds’ Jeep is a civilian model, even retaining a power takeoff option, hinting it has rural roots, but Mr. Shepherd restored the vehicle in the military style of a Jeep similar to those used in the Korean War, complete with a period-correct olive drab and a star on the hood painted to look distressed and aged. It bears 2nd Infantry Division markings, as Mr. Shepherd’s father, Raymond, served in the unit during the Korean War and spent 34 months as a prisoner of war in a North Korea. The vehicle also has a Charlie Company designation on its dashboard in reference to his granddaughter, Charlie.

“It’s great to have this finished,” Mr. Shepherd said. “I’m glad we came out.”

Some drivers planned for months to be a part of Jeep the Mac, and Petoskey residents Kate and Jim Scollin were the first people to register their Jeep for this year’s crossing. The couple drove a red 2001 Wrangler Sport across the bridge. Mrs. Scollin bought the vehicle last August and loves its red with tan canvas top color combination. The couple frequently makes trips to the Upper Peninsula in their Jeep, often heading to the Les Cheneaux Islands area, and have walked the bridge on Labor Day. They noted they love seeing communities working together to bring events like this to fruition.

“This is really exciting,” Mrs. Scollin said. “We’ve crossed the bridge many times before, but never in a procession like this.”

Returning participants from last year’st Jeep the Mac included Julie Morack of Romeo and her sister, Kathy Winget. They drove a red 2012 Wrangler Sahara, enjoying the views from the bridge but noting the parade’s pace was a little quick. Mrs. Morack said the crossing was much better organized this year.

Hass El-Khozai of Dearborn drove 300 miles north in his 2015 Wrangler Sahara. He was impressed by the event, planning to do the Drummond Island portion Saturday, and hoped to return in the future.

“That was beautiful,” Mr. El- Khozai said. “The view was fantastic.”

David Hall of Coldwater had one of the rare Jeep Patriots. He’s owned his 2011 Jeep for about a year and customized it with eyecatching mock “Umbrella Corporation” graphics, referencing the popular “Resident Evil” series of video games and movies. Inspired by the films, he added aftermarket wheels, lights, and sirens, plus some containers like those that contain the “t-virus.”

“So far, this (event) has been a lot of fun,” Mr. Hall said. “It’s great to meet other Jeep owners from my part of the state.”

Some of the Jeeps at the show fill several roles. The 1997 Cherokee XJ owned by Newberry resident Kris Kangas is lifted 3.3 inches higher than the standard model and rides on 33-inch tires. The vehicle maintains its stock drivetrain and is used by Mr. Kangas daily. Equipped with lights and sirens, it also serves as a backup vehicle for the Luce County Sheriff’s Office, where Mr. Kangas is a member of the auxiliary.

He has owned his Jeep for two years, upgrading it over the last year in an ongoing project.

“I’ve had difficulty getting it stuck,” Mr. Kangas said of its improved abilities after the modifications.

This was his first time at Jeep the Mac after a work commitment kept him out last year. He was looking to Saturday’s activities on Drummond Island.

One of the newest Jeeps in the parade was the 2017 Cherokee belonging to Edward Markfort of Minnesota. The Markfort family participated because they wanted to see the Mackinac Bridge and have a fun road trip.

“I’m surprised how many people there are here,” Mr. Markfort said, noting the St. Ignace community had been helpful to him.

Among unique Jeeps in the parade were three Wranglers bearing the special edition color “Aztec Gold,” only offered during the 2003 model year. Maxx Anderson of Sault Ste. Marie had one of the rare Jeeps, driving it across the bridge while accompanied by her friend, Allison Vallier. Mrs. Anderson has owned her Jeep for three years, adding a lift kit to it. She loved the vibe last week’s event offered. This was her first time taking part in the bridge crossing, although she participated in the trail riding portion last year.

Don and Jane Burgett of Columbus, Michigan, made the crossing in a 2002 Wrangler. While they were disappointed the parade spread out amid normal traffic on the roads and there wasn’t any traffic direction in Mackinaw City, they enjoyed the crossing and planned to go out to Drummond Island Saturday.

“That was cool,” Mr. Burgett said. “I don’t get many chances to drive across the Mackinac Bridge.”

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