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Car show’s popularity calls for new etiquette

Jim Trettel, Tom Langlois, Al Terwey and Kyle Smalley look over Langlois’ Ford Coup and Smalley’s Jeep Willy, both of which will be on exhibit at the Spirit Valley Days Car Show. (Photo by Richard Thomas)

The Spirit Valley Days Classic Car Show is a victim of its own success.

“It’s gotten so big it’s getting out of control. Which is cool, but geez,” said Al Terwey, owner of Mr. D’s Bar & Grill and one of the founders of the event.

The show runs approximately 4-9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30 in the Kmart parking lot.

What started out with 25 vehicles in 1979 has ballooned to 300 last year. Attracting more cars and larger crowds naturally creates traffic problems and conflicts with local businesses.

Organizers request that spectators avoid parking in the lots of Kmart, Spirit Valley Mall and other businesses, to keep space open for customers. Suggested parking for the event is behind the Kmart, near the highway overpass, and on the avenues.

“Last year it got so crazy they almost shut us down,” said Kyle Smalley, another of the show’s founders.

Another problem comes up near the end of each show. As drivers leave they are tempted to burn rubber. “That’s what hot-rodders do,” Smalley said.

Police will issue tickets to drivers who give into temptation. No roaring engines will be a letdown for spectators who wait around for these exciting moments. But it’s a safety hazard, especially to people standing close to the vehicles.

Spectators are also requested to not bring bicycles or baby strollers. In the past there have been incidents of cars getting scratched. “Paint jobs on classic cars take a lot of work,” Smalley said.

Those bringing their classic cars are being asked to park “tightly and neatly as possible,” Smalley said. But drivers are requested to not arrive until 3 p.m.

Organizers will have signs and volunteers directing traffic. They intend to keep a corridor open in for emergency vehicles.

Smalley plans to bring his 1948 Jeep Willy to the show. It was featured in several national car publications in 2011, after he brought it to a show in Illinois. At first spectators made fun of the “Yankees from Minnesota” with the jeep with big mudding tires. But then they were blown away when it popped wheelies. (Unfortunately, it won’t be doing any gymnastics at Spirit Valley, again due to safety concerns.)

Tom Langlois, another founding organizer of the event, will exhibit his 1936 Ford Three-Window Coup, a semi-custom street rod with air bag lifts in the back and a motor-operated trunk lid.

Jim Trettel will bring an old manure spreader hand-built by the inmates at a correctional facility. Originally it was horse-drawn, but he mounted an engine on it.

The show was started by the Outsiders Car Club, of which Smalley and Langlois are members. For the past three years many of the cars have been provided by members of the Wednesday Nighters Car Club. “It’s a socializing thing,” said Randy Jackson of the Wednesday Nighters. “It’s open to anybody.”

The first sponsor of the Spirit Valley Days Car Show in 1979 was Jim Carlson, owner of Oakland Radiator, who recently passed away from cancer. “We’ve lost a lot of people in recent years,” Terwey said.