There’s nothing better than filling up your fuel tank and hitting the road on your way to a national event. It’s as much about the time getting there as the time spent at the event that creates a level of excitement that continually builds throughout the weekend.

While heading out to the 12th Syracuse Nationals, it was easy to dig many of the local area sights, including dramatic architecture, great restaurants and nightlife, and numerous noteworthy sights, including the Finger Lakes region with its amazing views. Once you got into town check-in was a breeze at the host hotel, and if you arrived on Thursday, you had the chance to cruise over to Oneida Shores Park in nearby Brewerton, where the Right Coast Association hosted a free picnic barbecue for all entrants.

The New York State Fairgrounds are massive, encompassing 360 well-manicured acres, including loads of tree-lined streets to cruise on, enormous vintage buildings, countless horse and livestock barns, and enough open-air eateries to make you reminisce back to when you were knee-high to a Deuce bumper. The magic to a venue this big is that once you park your ride and get settled, you can head off with your program in your back pocket and explore all of the cool stuff waiting to be found. As you walk the event, you’ll find bitchin’ rods, customs, muscle cars, and restored originals lining every inch of the venue, including countless areas on the outskirts that aren’t heavily traveled. On Friday and Saturday there were a number of informative tech seminars offered by industry leaders, including Meguiar’s who hosted five-step paint care, PPG on their waterborne paint systems, and SSBC Performance Brakes on brake technology, to name but a few. With hundreds of vendors lining the roadways as well as inside many of the numerous exhibition halls, it was a perfect time to stop by and check out some of the hottest offerings available for your ride.

One of the neat opportunities at the Nationals is the chance to meet up with some of Hollywood’s legendary artists, and this year the crowds were deep at the Happy Days reunion, featuring Henry Winkler and Erin Moran, well known for their roles on the iconic TV series. You also had the chance to meet up with Candy Clark and Cindy Williams of American Graffiti fame, and Brock Yates and Dan Woods to talk about their incredible careers. Visitors could also have met up with Jerry Dixey and the AMSOIL/Street Rodder Road Tour when he rolled into town behind the wheel of the new scorching hot ’55 Chevy Road Tour car. It was a perfect chance for readers to talk with Dixey about many of his experiences from his countless years on the road.

With the continued success of the Old Skool Roundup, the mini-event once again had its own digs within a huge open-air pavilion where traditional hot rod and custom owners could call their own. Packed to the rafters with culture, including vendors and artists, it possessed its own unique vibe for participants and the endless flow of weekend visitors. The roundup has also become famous for its homemade specialized awards and searing musical entertainment with this year’s performers, including The Fabulous Ripcords, Krypton 88, Pete Paycheck, Tombstone Hands, Steve Southworth, and even an Elvis tribute and DJ Joel Shipley.

Another stoke part of the weekend festivities included the return of the Winfield Award, a special signature award for the Syracuse Nationals, presented by legendary customizer Gene Winfield. Through an application process, Winfield hand selected 12 cars from which he decided on a final six recognized as the “Winfield Select Six.” Car owners arrived from all over the country to compete for the award, which was presented by Meguiar’s and included a custom-made trophy, jacket, and check for $5,000. This year’s winner was Lenny Legere and his ’71 AMC Javelin.