ASHLAND, Ore.– If you were in Ashland last night or early this morning chances are you saw a large presence of a certain brand of car. As part of a nation wide event, Mini Coopers descended on the city this weekend as they continue a road trip to showcase their love for the car.
“You join a family when you buy a Mini.”
Those are the words some owners used to describe the scene that unfolded at Southern Oregon University early Sunday morning. While it may have the word “mini” in it’s name, the Mini Cooper community is anything but that.
Clocking in at more than 600 cars, Mini Cooper owners gathered together for a “Rise and Rally” put together by MINI USA.
“It’s great to share with friends even new ones you haven’t met before,” said Jim Wellington, a Mini owner.
With cars from Oregon, Texas and even New Jersey, Mini Cooper drivers have been joining together every other year for the past 14 years in what has been called Mini Takes The States. This year the starting points were in Portland for the Western Route and Orlando, Florida for the Eastern Route, with both relay events connecting people far and wide and bringing them all together in a central location. This year it’s in Keystone, Colorado.
“We’ve got friends all over the countryside and we’ve kept in touch on Facebook,” said Wellington. “We send things back and forth to each other.”
Wellington, who bought his first Mini in 2007, has been a part of five of the seven relays.
“First one we only did a couple stops but that was enough to get us hooked on the entire run,” he said.
After that, he’s been hooked.
“People always ask about what kind of mileage do you get? We don’t do it for mileage, we do it for the sport of it, for the fun of driving and just to have a great time,” said Wellington. “And everybody knows Mini is the only car that comes with friends.”
Wellington jokes but according to representatives of MINI USA, that’s the kind of culture they want with Mini owners. But organizing this relay is only one aspect of that culture, another part is giving back by raising money for charity.
“We had different charity partners every single year,” said Mini Experiential Manager Caryn Grun. “This is the first time that we repeating a charity partner because it worked so well.”
The charity, Feeding America, received over 1.3 million meals from Mini Takes the States 2016. This year organizers hope to hit 2 million.
“Because we have two different routes we have the east route and the west route,” said Grun. “We’re now being competitive and we’re trying to see how many meals each route can raise.”
While it certainly can get competitive, it’s still all for a good cause.
“It’s great to help a cause, have a great time and be back with your friends again,” said Wellington.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t be a little biased.
“West Coast is the best coast,” said Grun with a grin.
While you must have a Mini Cooper in order to participate in Mini Takes The States, organizers say you can donate money to the charity through their website.
To learn about the event or how to donate visit minitakesthestates.com.