We talked to the National Street Rod Association’s (NSRA) marketing director, Jim Rowlett, about the upcoming schedule of Street Rod National events. The season is slated to begin in sunny Southern California, where many of the attendees come to shake off the frost.
The Western Street Rod Nationals is currently slated for April 23rd, 24th, and 25th, at the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield, California. According to Rowlett, “This is the only event where the gates don’t shut at 5:00 p.m. 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 claims the Bakersfield event draws between 1,700 to 1,900 vehicles each year. “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 in other places.”
Next up is the Street Rod Nationals South on April 30th, May 1st, and 2nd at Chilhowee Park and Exposition Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. “A really great facility,” said 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.”
The NSRA closes out May at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield, Missouri, on May 28th, 29th, and 30th. Deep in the heart of Ozark country, this is the 39th anniversary of the event, with the fairgrounds hosting the last 28 versions.
“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.”
York Expo Center in York, Pennsylvania kicks off on June 4th, 5th, and 6th. A historically important area with the Gettysburg battlefield nearby, there is plenty to see and do.
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.
The Rocky Mountain Nationals will close out NSRA’s month of June at the Colorado State Fairground on June 25th, 26th, and 27th in Pueblo, Colorado. The show typically draws 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 rain shower, 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.
The Southwest Street Rod Nationals is slated for July 9th, 10th, and 11th at the State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Everything in the schedule so far has led to the big event, the Street Rod Nationals on August 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Annually, the NSRA team expects 10,000 to 11,000 vintage vehicles to show up.
The show also brags that over 350 vendors, 200 to 300 arts and crafts vendors, one of the largest swap meet on the planet, and a StreetKhana event that is unequaled, 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 its 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 this is the one event everyone should be attended.
The Route 66 Street Rod Nationals closes out August with some southwest flavor on the 27th, 28th, and 29th at Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
September shines with two long-running events, one in the North and one in the New England area. Starting off the month is the Street Rod Nationals North on September 10th, 11th, and 12th, at Kalamazoo County Expo Center and Fairground in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This area is considered the heart of automotive manufacturing in Michigan.
“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.”
The next stop across the NSRA country is the Champlain Valley Exposition in Burlington, Vermont for the Northeast Street Rod Nationals on September 17th, 18th, and 19th. Rowlett claims 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 in the New England area.
Every season must end and when the weather begins to tour sour in most parts of the country, serious car people head to warmer places where you can drop the top and cruise the hot rod. The NSRA holds its final event, the Southeast Street Rod Nationals on December 3rd, 4th, and 5th at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida.
“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 these are customs from local builders,” Rowlett added.
For more information on the NSRA or to get more information on their 2021 schedule, visit them online at www.nsra-usa.com.