Classic cars and summer heat

Published 5:46 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I stopped by the classic car show at Sutherland Chevrolet Saturday evening to check out the restored, recreated, and revamped rides of the previous generations. There were some lovely machines on display, and plenty of proud owners sitting amongst the open doors and hoods that showed off the muscle and beauty.

Classic car events have always been massive out in Nebraska, and the town I lived in was especially known for its celebration of hot rods and collectibles. Every Father’s Day weekend for decades was capped off with a Rod Run event that filled the downtown area with hundreds of vehicles, and doubled the town’s population for a morning and afternoon.

Like everyone else, I grew up going into town and browsing the rows of shiny chrome and polished vinyl each year. When I became editor of the newspaper, I not only admired the showcased rides, but also had the luxury of photographing everything as well. Needless to say, I upheld my duty every year to review the event with our readers and the community with pictures galore and a first-person recount of what the food vendors had to offer.

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My last year attending and covering the event before moving was in 2015, and it was a memorable day for a couple of reasons. Along with everything else going on, I agreed to herd together a conglomerate of my musician pals and perform for a street dance that my friend at the local steakhouse wanted to throw. 

As those who know me will attest, there aren’t many things that I would rather do than strap on a guitar and play music with buddies. Since playing at street dances is about as much fun you can have with a band (they are much more enjoyable occasions than weddings or funerals—both of which I have also performed at on several occasions), I was eager to jump at the opportunity even if the notice was a bit late.

My band was a usual gang of suspects featuring my longtime friend Ben on rhythm guitar and vocals, my Bakersfield, California transplant pal Rod on bass and harmonica, another acquaintance of mine and well-known Native American artist, author and lecturer Ralph on drums and myself on lead guitar, vocals and lame jokes for the crowd. We showed up with three hours’ worth of rock, country and blues tunes for listening and rug-cutting pleasure.

Unfortunately, the sun showed up as well, along with his own band of good buddies: heat and humidity. Even with our late afternoon start time, that trailer-stage was mighty warm with that big natural spotlight in the sky lighting us up in the early sets. We all exited the stage that night several shades redder—and luckily not due to embarrassment. We sounded pretty good that evening for a one-off project.

That show brought back intentionally-repressed memories of another Father’s Day car show event from about six years prior where Rod and I played another street dance out in Ogallala, Nebraska. We agreed to play for five hours, which typically isn’t a big deal. Except that day just happened to be 107 degrees outside, according to the bank clock directly across the street from the tire store parking lot where we played. That clock had the courtesy of reminding me of the temperature every time I glanced that direction, and the reprieve was light as the evening temperature drop came late and very shallow.

I was the lead singer of that venture, and despite my downing three bottles of water per set, my voice had exited the stage by the middle of the third. I was croaking like a bullfrog. That wasn’t one of the more memorable band performances I have been a part of.

So when we arrived at Sutherland Chevrolet for the car show on Saturday, I was not the least bit surprised to find that the heat had heard about the event and shown up itself. Heat loves classic car shows, it appears. That was okay on Saturday, because I only had a camera strapped on this time and not a ten-pound guitar, so I was able to enjoy the cars with a grin, not a grimace like years past.

Kudos to all of the classic car and truck owners who showed up and put their wheels on display for everyone’s enjoyment. See you at the next one, camera in tow!