BUTLER (KDKA) — World War II jeeps stand at attention at Cooper’s Lake Campground. These are the all-terrain vehicles General Eisenhower credited with winning the war. More than two thousand visitors are expected in Butler this weekend for the Bantam Jeep Festival, honoring the very first jeep ever built.
At the far end of the campground, jeep owners plunge through water and climb rough terrain in what they call the Jeep Playground.
Meanwhile, collector Bill Ringeisen unveils row upon row of jeep grilles, 18 of them, ranging from simple Bantam designs of the forties, to the colorful grilles of private owners in the fifties. The “Faces of Jeeps” exhibit is known more simply as “Bill’s Grilles.”
“I drive trucks for a living, but it’s just a hobby I have, playing with jeeps,” Ringieisen says.
The Evans City collector feels a special connection to the Bantam of Butler, which gave way to larger companies who copied the design. But why concentrate on grilles?
“That’s all I can afford, the grilles,” he laughs. “I can’t afford the whole jeep.”
Bill’s Grilles are just part of a festival that continues through Sunday.