Kay Staggs' school bus used to drive her past a house with a 1941 Chevrolet two-door special deluxe under the carport. The 59-year-old woman from Monette, Ark., never dreamed that one day, she'd be the owner of that car. Or that she'd be driving it all over the United States this year with her husband, Dan, attending each of the 11 National Street Rod shows.
This weekend, you can find the Staggs, as well as about 4,000 other car enthusiasts, and their machines at the York Fairgrounds for the 39th annual Street Rod Nationals East Plus.
"This is something we love to do together," she said. "We meet nice people from all over."
Although the three-day event's Women's World area will feature a quilt display, art-and-craft vendors, a ladies tea and shopping excursion, you might not find Staggs there. As one of four female state representatives for the National Street Rod Association (NSRA), she said, "I'd rather look at cars than go shopping."
This year's York show is expected to be at least as large in the past, with about 4,000 street rods, classic cars, muscle cars, trucks and specialty vehicles rolling into town.
"We were a little concerned with the way the economy is," said Jim Rowlett, NSRA marketing director, "but the last two events have been up, so it looks good."
Two years ago, the association changed eligibility rules to include vehicles 30 years and older, which has brought what Rowlett calls "a whole different perspective to the event."
For many, a highlight of the weekend is when about 125 street rods parade along Market Street from the Fairgrounds through downtown York at noon Friday.
Both Friday and Saturday mornings, industry leaders will hold hourlong technical seminars on everything from instrumentation and electrical relays to steering conversions and the latest in aftermarket products.
From 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, kids and adults can compete in a variety of driving and non-driving games. Jerry Kennedy, special events director for the NSRA, said one local club built an old-style go-cart without a motor that steers the wrong way.
"They have one person drive it blindfolded while someone else pushes them through an obstacle course," he said.
Saturday's Streets of Rods competitions showcase vehicles in categories that range from "Flamin' Freeway" - autos with flames in their paint design - to "Luxury Lane," where visitors can check out big, long wheel-based luxury cruisers.
A daily vintage swap meet will feature used and/or old original automotive parts for sale, as well as complete cars, and DJ Wings Callahan will play mostly music from the '50s and '60s from 9 a.m. until close of the show each day. For the fifth year, the Central PA Model Car Club will host a model car contest, with awards given in different age groups.
Kennedy said each year new vehicles and items premiere at the event. Visitors might encounter five red cars of the same make and model from the same year, but each is completely different because of how it has been customized. "This is a chance to get up close - see the insides of these cars and what makes them tick," he said.
Rowlett said nostalgia is the biggest reason people come to the show."It's something to connect back to your youth and that freedom of getting your driver's license," he said. "If you ask people about their first car, nine out of 10 times, it's a positive thing. You really relate to your first car or first new car."
For people like Staggs, it's also an opportunity to meet fellow enthusiasts from all walks of life. She said, "This is a hobby where you can take the young and old and the rich and the poor and they will sit down and talk with one another."
- Jen Vogelsong, for FlipSide
If you go
WHAT: Street Rod Nationals East Plus
WHERE: York Expo Center, West Manchester Township
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2; 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 3
COST: $14 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12. Children younger than 5 admitted free, must be accompanied by an adult. Senior citizens (60 and older), military with proper ID, and NSRA members with a current membership card receive $2 off admission.
DETAILS: Call 717-848-2596
Did you know?
The average street rod is worth $10,000 to $35,000. Most include modern safety and comfort features such as disc brakes, air conditioning, tilt steering, cruise control, power windows, satellite radio, GPS and more.
Vehicles at the York event typically range in value from $8,000 to $100,000, with an average of $28,000.
What you'll find
Parade through downtown York at noon Friday
Women's World with art-and-craft vendors, quilt display
Model car contest
About 150 commercial vendors, including manufacturers and dealers