Jeepin With Judd Kicks Up Dirts For Sixth Year
by James Coulter
For the past two years, Robert Erickson, owner of 12th Street Embroidery, has been traveling down from Maryland to Bartow for an opportunity to showcase and sell his Jeep gear, from badges and stickers to trailer hitch covers.
As a law enforcement officer, he especially loves attending an event like Jeepin With Judd that assists law enforcement. The only thing he loves more than Jeeps are people within his profession.
“Anything Jeep related is always fun,” Erickson said. “This is a cause close to my heart…I am law enforcement, so any law enforcement event is close to my heart.”
Erickson’s business was one of several sponsors for this year’s Jeepin With Judd, an annual fundraiser hosted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) to raise proceeds for its many charities, including its Youth Ranch.
Hundreds of Jeep owners from across the county, and even the state and country, travel to Bartow every year to showcase their vehicles and drive along off-road trails.
With so many people attending each year, the event has grown to be the second largest Jeep event in the state, and each and every year it has grown to be bigger and better, explained Ian Floyd, a major with the PCSO Special Operations Division.
“We certainly had more people than last year,” Floyd said. “It has been an overwhelming success. More jeeps and people showed up. More vendors. The number of trail rides have grown, and everybody has enjoyed themselves.”
For the past six years, the event has experienced overwhelming success. Most of this is due for the local community’s love, not only of off-road vehicles like Jeeps, but also of their county’s law enforcement, especially their Honorable Sheriff Grady Judd.
Floyd himself loves being able to engage in the camraderie of the event and hear everyone’s glowing feedback.
“Everybody has a good time,” he said. “I love being with the troops and the folks and getting feedback from the event.”
Peter “Sarge” Conklin, owner of Mahalak Auto Group, which operates Lake Wales Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, has been participating in the event with his business for the past four years.
As retired military, he appreciates any event that supports the troops or local law enforcement. At the event, he sold T-shirts for $2, the proceeds from which helped go towards the Polk County Youth Ranch.
Aside from selling Jeep merchandise and memorabilia, Sargealso used the opportunity to showcase some of the new Jeep models, including the Jeep Gladiator, showing potential customers what these vehicles can do and what they are capable of.
Sarge especially loves the diversity and the number of trails at the event, with each of them specially-tailored for different skill levels, from beginners to experts.
“For Florida, this is the Super Bowl,” he said. “I enjoy the people, lifelong friends…who love Jeeps come from every single background from doctors to artists to lawyers to blue collar. It is a mix of everybody, and in it, you will meet people you may have never approached in your day to day life who have become lifelong friends.”