Saturday, February 4, 2023

Carolina Beach Jeep ‘Go Topless Day’ looks to top last year’s record showing

Last year's Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day drew 834 vehicles and raised roughly $24,000 for charities. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Carolina Beach Go Topless Day)
Last year’s Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day drew 834 vehicles and raised roughly $24,000 for charities. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Carolina Beach Go Topless Day)

The event has already registered 700 vehicles (and counting) for the annual beach cruise up Freeman Park.

CAROLINA BEACH — “Jeepers” from North Carolina and beyond will be congregating on the north end of Pleasure Island this weekend for the seventh annual Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day, where event organizers hope to outnumber last year’s record showing.

“Last year we counted 834 Jeeps that showed up even in the pouring rain,” event co-founder James Mathis said. “As of today, we have over 700 Jeeps registered, which is more than at this point last year.”

According to Mathis, the only larger “Go Topless Day” events are in Crystal Coast, Texas and Panama City, Florida; both are unaffiliated with the Carolina Beach group.

RELATED: Rules of the road: A refresher for Carolina Beach golf carts ahead of the busy seasons

For those on Pleasure Island not participating, plan for a steep influx of performance vehicles. Starting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, police will escort the convoy of Jeeps from Ashley High School in Wilmington to the north end of Carolina Beach. After passing the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, the route includes a mile-and-a-half stretch of sand through Freeman Park. Once there, participants can spend the day on the beach with lunch provided by Jimmy Johns and Mission BBQ (for those who bought a meal voucher.)

Mathis expected heavy traffic right after 8:30 a.m. on Saturday that will likely cause delays. Last year the New Hanover Sheriff’s Department escorted the group from Ashley High in southern Wilmington to Snow’s Cut Bridge, where they were handed off to Carolina Beach police escorts.

Participants of last year's Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day gathered at Ashley High before police escorted them to Freeman Park. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day)
Participants of last year’s Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day gathered at Ashley High before police escorted them to Freeman Park. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Carolina Beach Jeep Go Topless Day)

It all began in 2013, when off-road Jeep enthusiast Matt Gillilan persuaded a group of friends to take the tops off their jeeps and drive the same route. According to Mathis, who was close friends with Gillilan’s brother in high school, that initial beach cruise drew 50 to 60 people.

Since then, he said event organizers have donated nearly $100,000 to charities over the years — with an emphasis on keeping it local. Nearly a third of the donations have gone to the Carolina Beach Help Center, a center that helps “residents of Pleasure Island who may not qualify for other assistance programs stay put in the community,” according to its website. Roughly $10,000 has gone to the Community Boys and Girls Club, according to Mathis.

“We try to keep 50 percent on this side of the bridge,” Mathis said.

This year they will be collecting toiletries and sanitary items — the Carolina Beach Help Center is asking for shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, tampons, socks, and disinfectant wipes — for those on the island who struggled after Hurricane Florence.

“These were the items most needed after Hurricane Florence, from which many in this community is still recovering,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

Festivities kick off 7 to 10 p.m. Friday night at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, where every five canned food or toiletry items dropped off will be exchanged for a raffle ticket. Beers will be provided by Carolina Beach’s own Good Hops Brewing Company — they will be serving the “Topless Amber” brewed with the help of event staff — and the Wilmington Brewing Company.

Three food trucks will also be on hand Friday night — Port City Que, A&M’s Red Food Truck, and Surf’s Up Hawaiin Shaved Ice.

Mathis said most of the event organizers are Carolina Beach locals who “want to do everything we can to lessen our negative impact on the community.”

“From begging them to watch for pedestrians and cyclists, to providing each registration with a trash bag to ensure there is no excuse to not take it with you, to having a beach sweep the next day to pick up anything that was left,” Mathis said. “We strive to ensure our participants are good stewards of the island both on and off the beach.”

Registration

Go to the event’s website to register, purchase your access pass and food tickets, and register for the Show & Shine car show. Purchases will be available on the website until Thursday, May 16, at midnight.

  1. Registration: $25 per vehicle; also includes access to the pre-party on Friday night.
  2. Vehicle Access Pass for Freeman Park: $40 per vehicle; required by Carolina Beach.
  3. Food Tickets: $12 per ticket; includes 1 meal with a choice between Mission BBQ or Jimmy Johns.
  4. Show & Shine Car Show: $30 per vehicle entry; Friday night starting at 6:30 p.m.; 6 categories will be judged with awards given out Saturday.

Schedule

Friday

  • Aquarium Pre-party from 6:30-10 p.m.
    • Show & Shine Car Show begins at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday

  • Line up for the convoy at Ashley High School at 7 a.m.
  • Police-escorted convoy leaves right at 8:30 a.m.
  • Cornhole tournament from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Poker run and Shown & Shine winner announced at 12 p.m.
  • Live music from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Raffle and 50/50 drawings at 3 p.m.

Sunday

  • Beach Sweep (hosted by local Jeep club Salty Crawlers) at 12 p.m.; meeting at the very end of Freeman Park and working their way back.

Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com

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