A lot went on at this year’s Shades of the Past Street Rod Association’s Hot Rod Roundup No. 29 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, now held at Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Adventure Park. But, before we get into this year’s goings-on how about a little background on why this event is rapidly becoming one of the country’s premier rodding events?

In every club there’s always the “go-to” guy and in Shades that would be Dan Draper, the club’s treasurer and rod run chairman. Draper tells us today’s Shades came about as a result of trying to resurrect the old Gatlinburg event back in 1982. The event had run its course with the city and it was no longer welcome. (I remember one time Norm Grabowski and I entering a rollaway bed in a race down a steep side street and ended up in a stream—well, you now know why we aren’t there anymore!)

A home was found at the Grand Hotel in Pigeon Forge after the club promised to cover 250 rooms—gutsy move for a bunch of good ol’ denim-wearing southern hot rodders who had drawn a humble 80 cars the last time around. There’s an old expression about risk versus reward: the size of the reward is in direct proportion to the size of the risk. In typical car guy fashion, the Shades Car Club figured that sounded doable and the Grand Run was born at the Grand Hotel.

The club also began its tradition of giving back to the rodders who supported them. At the first Grand Run in 1983, they gave away $1,000 to a lucky participant whose entry number was 1,000. The event was a success but trouble was a brewin’. By 1986, the Grand Hotel sent them packing. Up came the stakes and the show moved five blocks west to the Water Circus, which had plenty of parking, and the new event was off and running.

It was at the Water Circus in 1987 (Shades No. 5) that the date was moved to the Friday and Saturday after Labor Day. Yet the Shades club had to overcome another chuck of adversity. Water Circus was sold and a Quality Inn was built in the parking lot that was to be the home of Shades 1987.

Apparently southern rodders don’t like moving far; again with bags in hand they moved several blocks down the parkway to Porpoise Island. The next year it was back to the Quality Inn as its construction was now complete. With all of the adversity the event continued to grow and proved successful.

Having outgrown the Quality Inn site, the club leased a nearby 52-acre pasture in 1993 and the Shades of the Past Hot Rod Roundup had a home for the next 17 years. Of course, pastureland isn’t without its own set of unique circumstances, such as muddy under footings and dusty grounds, but by 2007 the event grew to 3,291 entrants. It was in 2002 that the event welcomed cars up to 1964 and then in 2006 opened the event to pre-’73 hot rods, as the dynamics that make up our hobby (and economy) began to have an impact on the number of entrants.

It was in 2010 that Shades was moved to Dollywood Splash Country (DSC). The available space was smaller but it was paved and eliminated the muddy and dusty conditions. DSC also offered an idyllic family setting, boding well for hot rodders and family. Being a well-known theme park on a local, national, and international level adds greatly to the overall entertainment value.

Now in 2011 the total entrants is pushing 3,000 cars and all indicators show that the expanded year cutoff and the new location at DSC have had a positive impact and bode well for the future.