By Abby Bell
Jeep owners love the power of four-wheel drive and off-roading freedom; but the intangible worth of owning a Jeep comes from the community of fellow “jeepers” that make every drive an adventure.
The spirit of the Jeep community is captured with off-roading events across Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. Combining the thrill of off-roading on Drummond Island with a group ride across the Mackinac Bridge – St. Ignace’s “Jeep the Mac” event offers something for everyone in the Jeep community.
Since 2016, Jeep the Mac marks the first major event of the Eastern Upper Peninsula’s summer tourist season. Traditionally held each spring, Jeep owners and enthusiasts gather to parade their customized off-road vehicles across the Mackinac Bridge. The event begins on a Friday leading into an exciting weekend of off-roading adventures on Drummond Island.
“All Jeep owners are encouraged to attend,” St. Ignace Visitor’s Bureau Events Director, Quincy Ranville states. “Whether you drive a Wrangler, Cherokee, Compass or Gladiator, there is something for everyone at Jeep the Mac.”
This year’s Jeep the Mac is May 6 – 8 and begins at Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace Friday afternoon. As Jeeps gather, Ranville and her team of local volunteers equip drivers with a registration packet, a commemorative sticker, bridge fare and begin organizing the line-up of over 700 Jeeps.
At 4 p.m., the colorful line of Jeeps curves through downtown St. Ignace and begins the journey across the Mackinac Bridge. The Jeep parade crosses through Mackinaw City and returns to Little Bear Arena in St. Ignace. Attendees are greeted there with a merry atmosphere featuring food, live music and vendors.
“We hope holding Jeep the Mac in May will bring warmer weather for participants and allow our local businesses to fully open for the season,” Ranville says about adjusting from April timing in previous years.
Ranville notes the date change also assists local restaurants and hotels that typically opened in the past for the Jeep the Mac weekend and closed again until early May. With the new May timing, the influx of about 1,500 people for Jeep the Mac encourages businesses to kick off the summer tourist season with an immediate revenue boost.
“Our goal is to get to the point where businesses can open earlier and stay open longer each season,” Ranville states. “We hope to plan more May and June events in the future.”
After the Mackinac Bridge crossing, Jeep the Mac attendees are invited to Drummond Island for off-roading, mud-bogging and a visit to the renowned South Marble Head Loop trail leading to Drummond Island’s legendary Marble Head Rock. Participants with the Jeep™ Off-Roading – Badge of Honor mobile app will receive a badge with an outline of Drummond Island to place on the outside of their Jeep after completing the trail. The South Marble Head Loop trail on Drummond Island and Holly Oaks RV Park in Holly are the only Jeep Badge of Honor locations in Michigan.
“Drummond Island is a rural, off-roading paradise,” Michelle Wallace, Drummond Island’s Tourism Manager states.
Drummond Island offers the unique mud-bog activities, off-roading in the Turtle Ridge Off-Road Park, a poker run around the island and festivities including live music, vendors and food.
“We look at it as more than just a tourist event,” Wallace states. “The local community gets involved with the vendor booths, food and music so it really is fun for everyone.”
The final organized event of the weekend is Murray’s Midnight Moose Run trail ride in St. Ignace Saturday night. This unique ride happens after-dark and encapsulates the adventurous spirit of Jeep the Mac weekend.
“All events cater to a variety of driver skill levels,” Ranville states. “Whether you’re a new driver or have years of experience off-roading, the trails in the E.U.P. are available for any skill level.”
Ranville explains that Jeep the Mac weekend has become so popular with the Jeeping community that the St. Ignace Visitor’s Bureau started an October event called Straight U.P. Jeep Creep. This event captures the fun of E.U.P. off-roading with an exhilarating haunted trail ride. Visit st.ignace.com for more details and registration information on Jeep the Mac and Straight U.P. Jeep Creep.
“The E.U.P. is well known for off-roading,” Ranville states. “You don’t want to miss these Jeep events!”