Jeep lovers to celebrate Willys Overland Rally this weekend

From May 18 to 20, lovers of Willys wagons will gather at Red Cliffs Lodge to show off their favorite cars and meet fellow enthusiasts at the ninth annual Willys Overland Rally.

Willys-Overland Motors was a 20th century automobile company known for its military and civilian jeeps. Event founder and organizer Casey Dimmitt said it was the design that originally drew him to Willys wagons.

“There are a lot of different things to like about them. The people that build them have so many different approaches, from stock to building rock crawlers out of them. So there’s a lot of different variances in what you get for the finished product … They’re easy to put your own personality into,” Dimmitt said.

“It’s about more than just the cars though,” Dimmitt said.

“It’s about the people. It’s not necessarily about the vehicles although the vehicles are key to what is bringing these folks together. A lot of people call me and say, ‘Hey, can I come and check it out. I have a Toyota.’ That’s fine, come and check it out. If you’re a Willys lover we’re happy to see you.”

The rally starts with a meet and greet Friday at 5 p.m. and ends with a group breakfast Sunday morning. Raffles, barbecues and scenic rides will keep participants busy through the weekend.

Those who have not signed up to participate in the rally can still come out and see the cars at a Saturday morning Show and Shine, Dimmitt said. Cars will be on display at Red Cliffs Lodge starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 10 a.m., when the vehicles will participate in a trail ride. Sunday morning, many of the cars will be seen around town as rally participants meet at Moab Coffee Roasters for breakfast before the end of the rally.

The event started in 2010. For Dimmitt, it was a deadline to finish his current project and a chance to meet fellow Willys enthusiasts. With five vehicles and 18 people, the event was a success. It has continued and grown every year since. This year, organizers expect more than a hundred people to show up from around the United States. Dimmitt thanked his fellow organizers Steve Kehm, Pete Anderson, Bill Johnson, Gavin Harrison and others for their help planning the rally.

“It’s basically just a bunch of buddies getting together, hanging out, enjoying the sights and sounds of Moab and enjoying the camaraderie,” Dimmitt said.

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ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent