HELEN - Jeeps of all model years and styles, bought from showrooms and built in garages, rolled into Helen Friday for the first-ever Alpine Mountain Crawl.
Organized by the merchants of Helen after a Facebook post by Helen Police Officer William Lee, the Alpine Mountain Crawl was packed with Saturday trail rides and a bonfire for participants.
The event significantly exceeded organizers' expectations.
Lindsey Holt of Bigg Daddy's Restaurant and Tavern was one of those who coordinated the event, also known as the Helen Jeep Fest.
"Myself and the Longs have just tried to pull it together here in the last couple of months to make sure that everything went off," Holt said. "We were expecting 150 and we're capping out the registration at 550. That's not counting the people that are coming in and not registering - so it's going to be crazy."
Because of the number of interested participants, several additional rides were added to allow more participation. Most of the Jeeps had at least two people in them, with many having four. The family-friendly event included parents and children, as well as those with their four-legged children.
"It's going to be a good weekend," Holt said. "We're just wanting to bring money into the town. All of us that are involved are local business owners in town. All of our volunteers are with JeepsonTrails.com and the Crawl Offroad people, and residents that live in the town as well."
One ride was from Tray Mountain to Charlie's Creek. Rated easy, estimated ride time was four hours. Another moderate ride was Bell Mountain to Charlie's Creek, also estimated at four hours. A second moderate ride was Charlie's Creek to Dicks Creek, also estimated at four hours.
The ride rated hard was Bend'N Hickory (also known as Dodd Road), which requires working 4x4, front and rear tow ports and 33-inch tires. That ride was estimated at four to six hours.
Jeepers returned for a bonfire at Zip-N-Time from 4-7 p.m., then returned to Helen for the restaurants and nightlife.
Even before lunch Saturday, numerous Jeepers were saying they'd like to see a similar event in the fall.
Ray Stanley, president of the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, participated in this weekend's event with his family.
Stanley described the Alpine Mountain Crawl in one word: "Awesome!"
"This is unbelievable," Stanley said. "The thing on Facebook, as it developed, it started to spread like a viral infection and it exploded and the shares and the likes were phenomenal. What you do out there using social media, you're getting a much broader cross-section of people today than you would have historically with the old means - it's cool tools."
The event wraps up midday Sunday, after a Show-N-Shine from 9 a.m. to noon across from Helen Tubing Co. and North Georgia BBQ. Awards for Show-N-Shine and closing ceremonies will start at 11 a.m.
Stanley praised the organizers and the city.
"These guys are doing an unbelievable job, but the City of Helen - I think it's unbelievable how they've engaged in this thing and being supportive as well," Stanley said.