DAYTONA BEACH – As thousands of jeeps slowly drove past the water’s edge on Sunday, Wendy Rivera stood on the beach, shooting small rubber ducks from a plastic ball thrower at passing vehicles.
“The ducks are a Jeep thing that started when covid started, and it’s just a way to gild people’s day,” says Rivera, from Port St. John.
Up to 5,000 jeeps showed up on Sunday for “Jeep Beach Sweep”, says Charlene Greer, CEO and chair of the week-long Jeep Beach event.
As part of the closing ceremony, jeeps parade the beach from International Speedway Boulevard to Dunlawton Avenue and pick up debris as they walk.
Organizers estimate that this year’s Jeep Beach attracted about 200,000 visitors and 20,000 jeeps, Greer said earlier this week. Now in its 19th year, Jeep Beach has become a beloved annual event due to its focus on raising money for worthy causes.
Incorporated as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) charity in 2017, Jeep Beach has donated over $ 2.8 million to charities in the area over the past decade through the event’s annual week-long fundraiser. Recipients include the boys ‘and girls’ clubs in Volusia & Flagler counties; NASCAR Foundation; the Childhood Cancer Foundation, as well as more than 30 additional non-profit groups.
In 2021, the event raised a record $ 500,000 for charity.
More:Mark Lane: Daytona welcomes Jeep Beach Week as the finale of the event season
More:Jeep Beach 2022 takes on treacherous terrain at Daytona International Speedway
More:“It’s friendship”: Jeep Beach 2022 streams in at Daytona International Speedway
“We sent out garbage bags and we asked all our jeepers when they leave the beach if they see a piece of rubbish, it does not matter if it is yours or not, to please stop, pick it up and carry it so that we leave the beach cleaner we found den, said Greer.
The jeep pulled fans down to the beach while others watched from hotel decks as decorated vehicles with flags, banners and inflatable ducks streamed past.
Rivera, a member of the Brevard County High-Road Jeeps Club, said she discovered the rubber ducks fit in a dog ball thrower, so she and her friends came to the beach to cheer on Jeep fans and drivers.
“We’re just shooting them (ducks) at jeeps and trying to get a few more smiles out of Jeep Beach Week,” Rivera said.
For the most part, the week-long event was safe and successful, officials said.
“We’ve had more jeeps this weekend than we have in recent years,” said Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue Capt. Laura Warner. “We had a total of 10,971 vehicle entrances on the beach yesterday (Saturday).”
The vehicles consisted largely of jeeps visiting the beach north of New Smyrna Beach, Warner said.
“Most of the complaints we have received in recent days have been for noise,” Warner added.
Similarly, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said Sunday police only handled a few complaints about loud music and parking lots.
“Those were the only problems reported throughout the event. With that being the case, I would call Jeep Beach Week a safe and successful event,” Young said. “They (Jeep Beach participants) have always been a pleasure to host.”
When the event ended on Sunday, longtime cyclists but for the first time Jeepers, Haley Copeland and her husband, Jeff Copeland, from Georgia, said the event was great fun.
“It’s been a whisper,” said Haley Copeland. “We usually come down for bike rallies so this is our first jeep rally. I just love watching jeeps.”
“The Jeep has been a lot of fun,” said Jeff Copeland. “I can not say that it has been an equal amount of compensation (for the motorcycle) but they both have their positive qualities and they both have fun events to go to.”
The exact number of visitors and vehicles visiting the area will not be known until the end of May, but the numbers for the week were good, Greer said.
“There have been record numbers,” Greer said. “Our main event is Friday and Saturday, so we had over 10,000 jeeps and 50 to 60,000 people coming to Speedway.”
Greer said she was also pleased that the event did not create major problems for society.
“We work hand in hand with beach patrols and county and city law enforcement, and it’s been a fantastic, fantastic week,” said Greer.