Jeep wash

Brothers 5-year-old Beckett and 8-year-old Cooper Burns learn the finer points of hosing the mud off of a Jeep from their grandpa, Bradford Township fire chief Dan Burkhouse, at the Jeep Jamboree Friday. The fire department offers to hose off muddy Jeeps for a donation to the volunteer organization.

The 23rd annual Penn’s Woods Jeep Jamboree may have fewer participants this year, but all are enjoying the event as normal.

Event coordinator Jim Gunter explained that the event is a unique situation — set up for social distancing.

“A lot of it takes place in the woods, and you are in your own Jeep, so that is social distancing,” he said.

However, that does not mean participants and event organizers do not recognize the need for precautions and the difference a pandemic makes for the popular event.

“There are concerns about the pandemic. It’s a combination of folks not sure they want to come and guys that were unable to come; they are in Canada and can’t get back, some have medical issues and can’t come,” Gunter said. “In past years, we have had 160 participant Jeeps, this year could only take 110.”

This year’s participants number between 250 and 300 people, traveling from various locales that include Eastern Pennsylvania, Missouri and Florida.

Speaking from the woods, where he took time out to speak to local media, Gunter noted, “They are all having a good time.”

The event, which typically involves group meals in the campus cafeteria or other get-togethers during downtime, is being held entirely outside this year, in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19. There are no congregating areas set up, and Gunter noted that meals are prepared by the cafeteria staff at Pitt-Bradford and provided to them in to-go bags.

“Pitt is doing a great job with the food. It is difficult this time, as they are cooking, putting it in a bag and providing it to participants. There are no tables to sit at this year, and we can’t enjoy meals in the beautiful cafeteria like we usually do,” he said. “We hope to be able to visit the cafeteria again next year.”

Other precautions, in addition to limiting in-person contact, are the requirement of masks or pullups, nylon fabric shields that can be worn around the neck and pulled up over the face when necessary, for all those participating in the jamboree. In cases where Jeeps need guides, the masks or pullups are worn so Jamboree participants can be within six feet of one another.

On the positive side, the event is proceeding as normal, with plenty of chances to enjoy the woods and nature, traveling on trails that are on private property, which organizers receive special permission to utilize for a two-day period.

“The woods are in great shape, and we are all insured with private landowners, we let everyone know ahead of time that these trails are private and for the local people on the Jamboree, they can’t come back except with the Jamboree,” Gunter said. “We are really grateful to the landowners for letting us (use the trails). It is once a year, and we are insured. We make sure that everyone is safe and taken care of.”

The Jeep Jamboree is the only event being held at Pitt-Bradford this summer. All others were canceled due to COVID-19.

“We appreciate UPB and the City of Bradford. We made sure they are comfortable with us being here, and we appreciate that they allowed (the event to go on) this year,” Gunter said.