Jeep Festival’s “Babes of Bantam” Will Teach Women How To Drive Off-Road

Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival organizers want to provide a place for women to learn “without the stress of their husbands’ [judgment].”

byKyle Cheromcha| UPDATED Jun 7, 2017 8:40 PM
Jeep Festival’s “Babes of Bantam” Will Teach Women How To Drive Off-Road

It's no secret that the automotive world is fairly male-dominated, and that's certainly true when it comes to the rough-and-tumble culture of off-roading. That's not to say there aren't any women who can hold their own in the dirt, but the gender balance at your average off-road park is probably pretty out of whack. That's why this weekend's seventh-annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, one of the largest Jeep gatherings in the country, will feature a new trail ride event designed and run entirely by women, for women.

The aptly-named "Babes of Bantam Trail Ride" is a response to what organizer Wendy Callahan said was a growing interest in off-roading among women. The course winds through the western Pennsylvania woods, giving women of all ability levels the chance to conquer obstacles like boulders and fallen trees under the tutelage of around a hundred female volunteer trail guides. They'll be walking alongside as the women traverse the trickier sections.

“It’s all about no intimidation. I wanted to make the trail challenging yet simple for ladies to help build their confidence," trail designer Christie Vinson said.

Callahan herself learned how to handle her Jeep Wrangler off-road from her husband more than two decades ago, but she acknowledges that a life partner doesn't always make the best teacher. Just ask anyone who's tried to teach their spouse (male or female) how to drive stick.

"We wanted to construct an environment where women can learn how to off-road without the stress of their husbands’ [judgment]," Callahan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Unfortunately, if you're reading this it's too late—all the driving spots are reserved for this weekend. But that just means it's likely the event will make a return at next year's Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, which brings thousands of Jeepers of all stripes back to the brand's mecca in Butler, Pennsylvania, where the very first Jeep rolled off the American Bantam Car assembly line in 1940. The weekend-long gathering features off-road events, demonstrations, historical exhibitions, and the world's largest Jeep parade through downtown Butler.

And now, of course, the Babes of Bantam Trail Ride.