The Yipao Jeep Festival in Colombia is one of the biggest Jeep Willys Parades that takes place every year. In 2006 the Yipao Willys Parade earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's longest Jeep parade, which lasted five days!
Some vehicles have luxury. Some have affordability. Jeeps Have community and a rich history built on practicality, ruggedness and creativity.
We continue to celebrate that history every year with the annual Yipao Willys Parades in Colombia. Necessity meets ingenuity and creates tradition: The Yipao Willys Festival’s roots dig deep, dating back to the post-World war II 1940s. Following the Second World War, the U.S. Army found itself with a surplus of military Jeeps and corresponding parts. Faced with the dilemma of what to do with them, the Army opted to sell off the extras to developing nations at a large discount. One of the popular vehicles that fell into that lot was the Jeep Willys.
The Colombian Ministry of Defense was among the nations that took advantage of the deal, but thereal story lies with the farmers of the Quindío region. Coffee beans grow in abundance in the Quindío mountains, but to transport beans, along with the area’s other agriculture, farmers needed to trekup and down mountain roads, many of which were curvy, narrow and unpaved. The farmers quickly found that the Willys Jeeps were the perfect solution to their struggle and they adopted them as the “Mechanical Mule” – or, as they call them, “mulitas mecánicas.” But the story doesn’t end there.
Beyond using the Willys Jeeps Simply to haul agriculture, the Colombians decided to put them to the test. They were used not only for hauling, coffee beans and agriculture, such as plantains, but for the possessions of entire households as families stacked all of their belongings onto a vehicle to move, building towers twice the height or more of the actual Jeep! And it worked!
Colombia’s dedication and love for Jeeps has grown strong ever since, and continues to grow today. While many of the original mountainous roads have been widened and paved over time, making the farmer’s commute an easier task, the Jeep original purpose has become folkloric in the nation and lives on through the annual Yipao parades. At the Yipao Willys parades today, you’re less likely to see overloaded Jeeps in the mountains, but every June, Jeep enthusiasts converge in Colombia to remember its pastime and celebrate the modern innovations with the Yipao Willys parades. Locals from all over the nation participate, loading (or rather, overloading) their Jeeps in the name of tradition.
A by-stander unaware of what he or she is viewing may be puzzled about the comically overloaded vehicles. But to locals and global Jeep enthusiasts, the event is as familiar as an annual holiday. Each participant loads up their Jeeps with agricultural products, livestock or household items, while including something important to Colombian culture. The owners are able to enter their Yipao into one of several contest categories:
Yipaos in this category are loaded entirely with agricultural products, which could include produce and harvest, or other more out-of-the box items, like equipment or even livestock. As the most traditional category it honors the festival’s primary roots of loading the vehicles high with coffee.
In homage to the festival’s roots, entries in the house-moving category are piled high, as though to relocate from a residence. You’ll see everything from paintings to lamps, or even the living room sofa!
Imagine your local flea market being piled onto the back of a Jeep and paraded down the street, and you may get an idea of the “free” category vehicles’ appearance. These vehicles get decorated with icons, accessories and ornaments to create one-of a kind look that you can see only at the Yipao Willys parades.
Exactly how much can a Jeep carry? The Piques category answers boldly, challenging the participants to load their vehicles to the max, piling nearly 4,400 pounds worth of loot onto the back so that they drive using only the rear wheels, lifting the front end into the air. The objective is not only to push the vehicle to its max haul weight, but also to drive on only the rear wheels for as long as possible. But beyond the off-balance driving and sheer weight and volume of the vehicles, there’s something even more jaw-dropping about the pique category: the cowboys. The category’s name refers to daring stunts “Jeep cowboys” perform while the vehicle is in motion. When you see a pique category entry, you’ll likely notice a cowboy performing any number of daredevil feats, from hanging off the front end to climbing steps, tumbling and even performing while the driver climbs out of the driver seat – all while the vehicle is in motion! It isn’t for the faint of heart, but certainly puts on a must-see show that you’ll remember forever.
As memorable as the Yipao Willys parades are – and as huge a following as they have earned in Colombia, it’s hard to believe that, outside of Colombia – they manage to remain largely unknown. Beyond the annual festival, the Jeep remains an important part of the Colombian history and continues to be a popular vehicle choice, for pleasure, adventure and regular transport.