Minnesota native Garrison Kiellor loves to talk on his "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show about his state's "Norwegian bachelor farmers" and the pickups they drive into the town of Lake Wobegon. The fictional town may not be far from the Twin Cities, but those weren't the pickups on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for Back to the '50s weekend!
An all-fiberglass '39 Studebaker-styled hauler on an S10 chassis, a 454 Chevy-powered '54 F-100 panel delivery, or a yellow '55 Chevy with an aluminum-lined bed and a 383-inch stroker motor are hardly the stuff of Norwegian bachelor farmers!
You'd better believe this event draws! Street rod and custom trucks join the other pre-'65 customs, street rods and classics from all across the country for this automotive celebration. This year the total vehicle turnout was 9,854. Many, of course, belong to the Minnesota Street Rod Association, the statewide organization that puts on the event, while others swarmed in from surrounding states and farther away. Crowds-spectators and participants-were estimated at 85,000 for the three-day weekend.
Filling the state fairgrounds for the June 22-24 weekend, the event takes on the atmosphere of a fair with colorfully finished vehicles replacing cows and sheep, and horsepower instead of horses. Hundreds of vendors offer all manner of custom automotive components and equipment, and several fairgrounds buildings are filled with arts, crafts, and car-related merchandise. Fairground food vendors keep the mobs nourished with such fare as funnel cakes and bratwurst that can only be found at a fairground.
The swap meet is one day only, Sunday, but it keeps getting bigger. This year it filled the entire racetrack and infield with previously owned automotive treasures, including several early '50s Chevys and a '54 F-100 on a four-wheel-drive chassis for $1,500.
As if all this isn't enough, the MSRA provides free Friday and Saturday night concerts with such headliners as Johnny Tillotson, The Tokens and Tommy Nystrom's tribute to Roy Orbison. For the third year Mecum Auctions hosted a custom and hot rod sale, something for the "pedestrian" who just can't wait to build his ride!
If you aren't too weary after the day's activities, you can extend the evening as long as you want cruising Porky's or the other spots on University Avenue. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are a great vacation destination anytime, but for the street rodder and custom trucker it's gotta include Back to the '50s! Mark it down for June 21-23 in 2002.