Well, another summer is over and once again, I didn't get to drive my roadster nearly enough, but I still saw plenty. These days the "heavy" travel is left to the "younger" staff members who are both single and have no life outside the confines of four wheels, a pair of framerails, and eight cylinders. But I get around enough to make some noteworthy observations.
For starters, every year I have the good fortune to attend the NSRA Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Goodguys get-together in Columbus, Ohio. Each of these weekend affairs represents the respective association's premiere function. Generally speaking, the Columbus affair to remember takes place the second weekend in July, while a good dose of Southern hospitality occurs in Louisville the first week in August.
While the events are different, they also have a great deal of similarities. Columbus plays host to pre and post '48 cars, while Louisville is strictly a pre-'48 gathering. Columbus is a three-day event, while Louisville takes on a family out for a summer vacation feel as it spans four days with more and more rodders arriving on Wednesday making it effectively a quasi-five-day event. Columbus is creeping upward, now surpassing 6,000 vehicles; Louisville has stabilized around the 11,000 mark. (The discussion here, "Could Louisville handle any more cars, people, and tourists during the first week of August?" Well, the city fathers will have to tussle with that one.) Both events are significant, but for the pre-'48 aficionado, there can be no denying the lure of Louisville, while Columbus has variety that covering both sides of 49th Street brings about. Columbus has also replaced Goodguys Indy as the place to see the year's newest and latest trends in rodding first.
The facilities (which include the event fairgrounds, hotels, restaurants, and nearby tourism) of both venues get high marks with the edge, again my opinion, going to Louisville. The argument could be made that the fairgrounds in Louisville are absolutely state-of-the-art with the indoor trade show facilities as good as anything I have seen regardless of the function anywhere in the country. Add to this the nearby tourism, restaurants, and, in general, local attractiveness and again the scale tips toward the Bluegrass State. (OK, time for sum' book learning: Bluegrass is not really blue, it's green, but in the spring, bluegrass produces bluish-purple buds. Early pioneers found bluegrass growing and traders began asking for the seed of the "blue grass from Kentucky." The name stuck, and today Kentucky is known as the "Bluegrass State.") The shortfall, if there is one in Louisville, is the availability and proximity of high-quality hotel rooms near the fairgrounds; although this has gotten better over the past several years.
Columbus has a good facility to host an event of this scope coupled with some fine hotels within five to seven miles. Additionally, I have found a good variety of high-quality restaurants. (You just knew that would be at the top of my priority list.) I have also found the people from the Buckeye State to be friendly and helpful and that always helps when you are from out of town. (OK, another dose of book learning: Because of the abundance of Buckeye trees within the state's borders, it was legislated in 1953 as the state's official tree. The tree is called the Buckeye tree because its nuts resemble the shape and color of a deer's eye.) You know, with these wonderful tidbits of info, you could darn near home school your little ones (or grandkids) just from the pages of my editorials. Or not.
But what about the cars? Even though there are less street rods at Columbus, the variety and debut of new cars has many of the nation's top builders gearing up each year to make the second week of July the target date for their latest effort. There are three dates car builders aim for in any given year: early March for the Detroit Autorama and, hopefully, a shot at the Don Ridler Memorial Award; early July at Columbus and either the Street Rod of the Year award or the Street Machine of the Year award; and, last but certainly not least, the SEMA Show in early November. While awards aren't the draw at SEMA, it is the industry exposure each builder needs and will receive. It also bodes well for a builder to "shine" at SEMA as it will assuredly garner him work and sponsorship for upcoming years. I know I have left out the Grand National Roadster Show, but that is highly specific as it is geared toward the best in pre-'37 roadsters; coupes, sedans, etc. need not apply for the coveted 9-foot America's Most Beautiful Roadster trophy.
So, where should you spend your summers--Columbus or Louisville? I opt for both. I like the sheer numbers presented to me at Louisville, while I thoroughly enjoy the variety Columbus has to offer. Come next summer, you will see me at both, so why not stop by and say "hi?" I will be the one looking for deer's eyes and blades of blue grass!