I’m the first to admit I’ve never been a real avid car show participant. At least, not putting my car in them. I do enjoy car shows but my main enjoyment is in the driving. So you might see my car parked out on the street somewhere while I browse around, talk to people and shoot a few pictures. Give me an hour or so and I’m on the road again.
Well, one of my recent weekends may have changed my mind a little on that point.
Been doing some minor fixing on my old Chevy II and thought maybe I should-road test it. The Wilmot Harvest Festival was going on just up the road from me, a small town celebration that included…. you guessed it… a car show. So off I went. Beautiful day for a drive, this Saturday morning, along the rolling South Dakota bluffs overlooking Big Stone Lake. Pulling into Wilmot, I snuck around the barricades at the end of main street, parked and walked over to the registration table. As the guy at the table took down my name and car info, he handed me a nice dash plaque and told me to put my wallet away unless I was fixing to give him a tip. No registration fee here. So I just kicked back and enjoyed things.
Walked across the street to the community center where they were serving a pancake and sausage breakfast – free will donation. Delicious. I turned down a generous free-refill offer because they gave me plenty the first time. Chatted with a couple ladies who had gotten their fill of garage sales (hard to believe, huh?), hung out with fellow car guy Wes from Sisseton SD, watched a kids’ pedal tractor pull (you should see the concentration on those little kids’ faces!), browsed the craft vendors, talked to a bunch of other people and before long it was award time. I think there were maybe three or four awards given out but I wasn’t really counting.
So what did I learn from this Saturday morning outing?
I learned that a familiar ’57 Chevy four-door hardtop on display was driven to the show by the same couple who bought it new and also drove it to South Dakota’s Black Hills on their honeymoon! The original dealer sticker was carefully taped to a sheet of cardboard and displayed in the window.
I learned that there’s at least one ’62 Pontiac Tempest running around Wilmot with a four-banger under the hood. You know, the one that looks like half of a 389 V-8? When’s the last time you saw one of those?
I learned that twisted barbed wire makes a cool-looking support to hold four pipes together in a zoomie-style exhaust header setup.
I learned that beer kegs still work fine as fuel tanks. And that you might have to put a sticker in the back window of your finished, drivable hot rod to let people know, in spite of its road worn finish, that it is actually a finished and drivable hot rod!
I learned that a traditional style chopped ’51 Merc can still look pretty good with modern touches like billet wheels and tweed upholstery.
I learned that no matter how small the show, there will be a lady dressed in a poodle skirt and saddle shoes who’s hanging around a fifties-era car and having a blast doing it. There will be a drive-in food tray with a plastic hamburger hanging on the window. And looking at that tray will, strangely enough, still make me hungry for a hamburger.
I learned that an ice cream bar purchased from a concession stand twenty feet away on July 30 will melt before you can eat it all. I have proof of that on the front of my t-shirt.
I learned that the cars’ stories and the people who tell them are just as big a part of this hobby as the cars themselves.
And I learned that (basically) one guy, Mark St. Martin, can organize a car show as part of a local festival, keep it just a couple hours long with no registration fee, very few awards, and have out-of town visitors thank him for putting on the show.
I guess I’d call that a success.