Off-roaders show up for Santa Crawls fundraiser
by Paige Rentz
More than 500 campers and off-road enthusiasts piled into Choccolocco Mountain Off Road Vehicle Park and Campground this weekend to ride the trails and lend a helping hand during the holiday season.

For the fifth annual Santa Crawls event, park guests could score weekend admission to Choccolocco by donating a child’s toy of $20 value or more. Park owners Trey and Natalie McDonald collected more than 300 toys to be donated to the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center

“It couldn’t have turned out any better,” Trey McDonald said. “It was the best to date … I couldn’t believe how many people came.”

The event, he said, keeps getting bigger and better every year, and this weekend boasted the highest turnout they’ve seen for the holiday-themed trail ride.

The McDonalds started the event shortly after opening the park in an effort to draw in new customers and help the community at the same time, Natalie McDonald said.

Saturday functioned at the main event of the weekend. The McDonalds hosted a huge barbecue, smoking a 300-pound pig and serving up potato salad and baked beans donated by The Rocket.

Josh Cash, local musician, played all afternoon to entertain the park’s campers, which Trey McDonald said occupied about 30 campers and 50 to 60 tents. Many more park-goers, he said, spent the weekend at the Hampton or University inns. He said he believed more out-of-towners than locals attended the event, with folks coming in from states such as Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina.

While the McDonald’s do host races at their Choccolocco park, the Santa Crawls event is more low-key.

“Everybody just hangs out,” Trey McDonald said. “They ride around, do obstacles on the trail” with their jeeps, rock buggies and other off road vehicles.

Although Saturday morning saw some wet weather and it remained foggy later in the day,, it didn’t affect the main event, Trey McDonald said. Besides, he added, “People who come out and ride the four-wheelers like it a little sloppy.”
© 2012