DAYTONA BEACH — As thousands of Jeeps drove slowly past the waterfront on Sunday, Wendy Rivera stood on the beach and shot little rubber ducks from a plastic ball launcher at the passing vehicles.
“The ducks are a Jeep thing that started when covid started, and it’s just a way to brighten people’s day,” said Rivera, of Port St. John.
Up to 5,000 Jeeps showed up Sunday for the “Jeep Beach Sweep,” said Charlene Greer, executive director and chair of the weeklong Jeep Beach event.
As part of the closing ceremony, jeeps parade the beach from International Speedway Boulevard to Dunlawton Avenue, picking up trash as they go.
Organizers estimate 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 area charities over the past decade through the event’s annual week-long fundraising efforts. Recipients include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia & Flagler Counties; NASCAR Foundation; the children’s cancer fund, as well as more than 30 additional non-profit groups.
In 2021, the event raised a record $500,000 for charity.
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“We sent out garbage bags and we asked all our jeepers when they leave the beach if they see a piece of trash, it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not, to please stop, pick it up and carry it so we leave the beach cleaner that we found it, Greer said.
The Jeep Parade drew fans down to the beach while others watched from hotel decks as vehicles decorated with flags, banners and inflatable ducks streamed by.
Rivera, a member of the High-Road Jeeps Club of Brevard County, said she discovered the rubber duck 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 weeklong event was safe and successful, officials said.
“We had more Jeeps this weekend than we have in the last few years,” said Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue Capt. Laura Warner. “We had a total of 10,971 vehicle entries on the beach yesterday (Saturday).”
The vehicles consisted largely of Jeeps that visited the beach north of New Smyrna Beach, Warner said.
“Most of the complaints we’ve had in recent days have been about noise,” Warner added.
Similarly, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said Sunday police handled only a few complaints about loud music and parking lot parties.
“Those were the only issues 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.”
As the event wrapped up Sunday, longtime bikers but first-time Jeepers, Haley Copeland and her husband, Jeff Copeland of Georgia, said the event was great fun.
“It’s been a whisper,” Haley Copeland said. “We usually go down for bike rallies so this is our first jeep rally. I just love looking at jeeps.”
“The Jeep has been a lot of fun,” Jeff Copeland said. “I can’t say it’s been an equal replacement (for the bike) but they both have their positives and they both have fun events to go to.”
The exact number of visitors and vehicles visiting the area won’t be known until the end of May but the numbers for the week were good, Greer said.
“It’s been record numbers,” Greer said. “Our main event is Friday and Saturday, so we had over 10,000 Jeeps and 50 to 60 thousand people come to the Speedway.”
Greer said she was also glad the event didn’t create major problems for the community.
“We’re working hand-in-hand with beach patrol as well as county and city police, and it’s been a great, great week,” Greer said.