We talked to the National Street Rod Association’s (NSRA) marketing director, Jim Rowlett, about the upcoming 2018 schedule of Street Rod National events and what makes each one special, or different, than the rest. The season begins in sunny Florida, where many of the attendees come to shake off the frost.
Southeast Street Rod Nationals In Tampa, Florida
“This is one of the events that has been at the same venue since it’s inception,” said Rowlett. “Now into it’s 31st year, this is the place where a lot of east coast builders showcase their latest build that they may have finished over the winter.” According to Rowlett, there are also plans to have the StreetKhana makes its debut at the event.
“It is a great venue with one of the better swap meets we see throughout the country. The event pulls in 1,100 to 1,200 vehicles, many of them customs from local builders,” he added. The event is scheduled for April 6th, 7th, & 8th at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Southwest Street Rod Nationals In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Rapidly following the Tampa event in a “back-to-back” event schedule, the NSRA crew rolls into Oklahoma City, April 13th, 14th, & 15th at the State Fair Park. “Every event is different in it’s own right,” said Rowlett. “The Southwest Nationals in Oklahoma is entering its 35th year, and it always hosts a lot of cars. This one brings in over 1,500 vehicles each year.”
According to Rowlett, there are also plans to bring the StreetKhana event to Oklahoma as well, but the plans are not finalized yet.
Western Street Rod Nationals In Bakersfield, California
The organization winds up a busy month of April in the car fanatic community of Bakersfield. The event is slated for April 27th, 28th, & 29th at the Kern County Fairgrounds. “This is the 42nd edition of the Western Nationals, and the 32nd time at this location,” said Rowlett. “This is the only event where the gates don’t shut at 5:00 p.m.,” he added. “Like the rest of Southern California, this community loves cruising their cars. From five until eight, many of the car owners cruise their cars around the area, and the fairgrounds.”
Rowlett explained that the Bakersfield event draws 1,700 to 1,900 vehicles each year, which surprised us for an agricultural community, but doesn’t seem to shock Rowlett. “These are real car people that just have a good time with cars,” he stated. “You see low riders, high performance cars, and some vintage racers that you don’t see other places.”
Street Rod Nationals South In Knoxville, Tennessee
In another back-to-back weekend, the NSRA crew travels cross-country to the “Volunteer State” to spend May 4th, 5th, & 6th at the Chilhowee Park & Exposition Center. “A really great facility,” claims Rowlett. “The park is split in two by a four lane surface street, two lanes in each direction, with a tunnel that connects one side of the park with the other.” According to Rowlett, this event really shines with sedans that are “other than GM and Ford.”
“This is NASCAR country, and we’ve had a lot of the drivers that are also street rod fans show up with their rods,” Rowlett added. “We see some of the high-dollar later model cars that are really well done. Bobby Alloway and some of the other high-dollar builders are nearby, and they show up big.” By past numbers, this event turns out 1,600-plus street rods each year. If you are a Corvette or mid-’50s Chevy fan, you won’t be disappointed with this show.
Mid-America Street Rod Nationals In Springfield, Missouri
The NSRA closes out May at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, May 25th, 26th, & 27th. Deep in the heart of Ozark country, this is the 35th anniversary of the event, with the fairgrounds hosting the last 24 versions of the event. It is almost mandatory that the NSRA hold the StreetKhana at the venue.
“The swap meet is one of the big highlights of this event. The Ozark Empire Fairground is a unique venue with grass and trees greeting the attendees as they enter the grounds. Then, you go up the hill and around the corner and the area is covered with blacktop,” said Rowlett. If you like parking on the grass or prefer the blacktop, either is available.”
This event brags of the street rods and classics from the ’50s and ’60s, with a great display of musclecars.
Street Rod Nationals East in York, Pennsylvania
The very next weekend has the crew visiting York Expo Center on June 1st, 2nd, & 3rd for the 45th running of the event. This will be the 38th time the event has been held in York, a historically important area. With the Gettysburg battlefield and Harley Davidson plant nearby, there is plenty to see and do.
“Jerry Kennedy, our special events director, has organized a unique fundraiser with the pinstripers, in what he calls the “Brush Brigade,” to pinstripe several items for auction with the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish foundation,” Rowlett explained. “They have done this for the last four years, and will be continuing again this year.”
According to Rowlett, this event is known for its huge collection of big cars. “You will see a lot of Buicks, Pontiacs, Hudsons, and other four-door sedans on a larger scale than other events,” he said, adding; “of course that is what I see. You could ask ten different people and they would all see ten different things.”
Rocky Mountain Street Rod Nationals In Pueblo, Colorado
The Rocky Mountain Nationals will be celebrating its 34th year, all of which have been held at the Colorado State Fairground. The event will be held June 22nd, 23rd, & 24th, and is expected to draw in over 2,000 street rods.
According to Rowlett, “We typically see more station wagons, trucks, four-by-fours, and Jeeps here. Things that are common to the area.” When asked about the frequent change of weather during this time of year in the Rocky Mountains, “When you have an afternoon rainshower, it is just a complimentary car wash,” Rowlett explained.
The Rocky Mountain Nationals are typically held the same weekend as the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, so there is plenty of additional excitement associated with hot rods in the area. All of this builds up to the next event, which everyone looks forward to each year.
Street Rod Nationals In Louisville, Kentucky
The NSRA’s big show, held at the Kentucky Exposition Center, scheduled for August 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th is stuffed full of entertainment. This will be the 49th edition of the event, with the Exposition Center celebrating its 24th year hosting the event. If you like cars, this is the place to be, as there will be between 10,000 to 11,000 vintage vehicles show up.
The show also brags that over 350 vendors, 200 to 300 arts and crafts vendors, one of the largest swap meets on the planet, and a StreetKhana event that is unequalled, will all happen on the grounds. SEMA’s Hot Rod Industry Alliance program has chosen this event to present their annual seminars to the public, with topics that range from interiors to wiring.
If all of that isn’t enough, the Louisville Nationals is the place where the NSRA’s annual awards are presented. From the Builder’s choice award, to the Pro’s Pick of the Year award, the top street rod builds are rewarded by the industry. The NSRA also presents their prestigious safety awards to the best new products each year.
If you can only make one NSRA event in a year (we feel bad for you), but if your job requires you to be on the international space station and off the planet for 11 months out of the year, a little prior planning is required. But this one event should be attended.
Street Rod Nationals North In Kalamazoo, Michigan
Then fun doesn’t end at the Louisville Nationals, as the NSRA train rolls on to the heart of automotive manufacturing in Michigan. For the 39th time, the NSRA will be hosting the Street Rod Nationals North. Kalamazoo will celebrate hosting the event for the 32nd time, on September 7th, 8th, & 9th.
“The Street Rod Nationals North has the largest swap meets you will see at any of the events,” claims Rowlett. “This swap meet is larger than many events that only hold swap meets,” he added with a chuckle.
According to Rowlett, this event has a typical cross section of Fords and Chevys in a fairly large show of 2,100 plus street rods. “We see a lot of cars from Canada that look like the American versions but have different names.”
Northeast Street Rod Nationals In Burlington, Vermont
The NSRA season closes its year out at the Champlain Valley Exposition Center on September 14th, 15th, & 16th, with its youngest event. Celebrating a monumental 25th year, the Northeast Nationals offers plenty to do for attendees. According to Rowlett, this is one of the most fun events of the entire season.
The typical draw includes many of the larger cars that were typical of the area, with a fair share of pickups added in. Once again Canadian cars for our neighbors up north make the trip to show off their vehicles. This show brings in over 1,500 street rods to signal the end of the show season and prime the next season.