With sunny skies expected throughout the week and large numbers of tourists in town and on surrounding trails, organizers and local business owners say Moab’s annual Easter Jeep Safari is shaping up to be yet another success.
“We’re excited for Jeep Week,” said Elaine Gizler, executive director of the Moab Area Travel Council. “In the spring, when the leaves start budding, so does the town.”
Grand County Sheriff Steven White said that aside from a couple of rescue calls and a few minor mishaps, there have been no major problems associated with this year’s event or its crowds.
“It’s going well so far,” White said. “There’s lots of people, and a lot of things going on. People just need to remember to be patient.”
Two fatal accidents have occurred in the area since last week, but neither was connected to Jeep Safari. Shortly after midnight on April 5, two men died in a multi-vehicle crash involving two semi-trailers on eastbound Interstate 70, near the Colorado-Utah border. World-renowned bicyclist Steve Tilford, 59, and one of the semi drivers, Stanley Williams, 70, of Grand Junction, were killed in that crash. On Sunday afternoon April 9, Gary Nathan Abbott, a 22-year-old man from American Fork, reportedly fell 400 feet to his death while camping with friends at Dead Horse Point State Park.
Officials from the Red Rock 4-Wheelers club reported no major problems as of Wednesday morning, marking the halfway point of the nine-day event.
Also on Wednesday, dozens of vendors were setting up trucks, tents, and displays at the Old Spanish Trail Arena for what is believed to be the largest-ever vendor expo. Various vendors will be showcasing a wide variety of off-road vehicle products, including tires, shock absorbers, winches, lights, and accessories.
Many of the companies will be offering free promotional gear and other items, along with chances to win prizes. The vendor show lasts all day Thursday, April 13 and Friday, April 14. The annual local Boy Scout barbecue fundraising dinner will start at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and a large prize drawing will be held starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the expo.
Earlier in the week, several other promotional events took place around town, attracting locals and out-of-town visitors alike. At a Jeep promotional event in the Walker Drug parking lot, several new vehicles in the company’s 2017 lineup were on display. A large map invited people to mark where they were from with a pin. The map had pins from virtually every state and several foreign countries.
Many Moab businesses have reported a noticeable upswing in customers not just this week, but since the beginning of the spring season.
“At Moab Adventure Center we are having a great spring. The weather has been good and so the spring river trips are doing very well, as well as our guided hiking trips,” said owner Jason Taylor. “At Canyonlands Jeep Adventures, our Jeep rentals have also been doing very well.”
“Store sales are good,” Taylor added. “Lots of people are walking around town in the evenings and shopping in the stores.”
Kyle Kimmerle, owner of OTR Tire Center in Moab, said while he hasn’t sold many off-road tires, he has sold a number of trailer tires this week, in addition to routine maintenance and repair jobs. “We’ve been pretty busy,” Kimmerle said.
The economic effect is felt at many other types of local businesses as well.
“We’re having a great year so far at the furniture store, as is our daughter Lindsey with her business, Lop’s Pop Stop,” said Kimberly Knowles, co-owner of Knowles Home Furnishings.
Gizler said tourists paid a total of around $4.6 million in transient room taxes (TRT) in Grand County in 2016, plus another $666,000 in Tourism, Recreation, Culture and Convention Facilities Taxes (TRCC).
“People are here to do everything,” Gizler said. “It’s not just Jeeps, it’s getting familiar with our area. We’re trying to educate the town on how to work with the tourists, to facilitate ways to help make the tourists’ experience better.”
To that end, Gizler said the Moab Area Travel Council is offering a couple of free hour-long training sessions for local businesses to improve their interactions with tourists. They are scheduled for April 27 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Moab Information Center.