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Jalopy Fest takes hot rod enthusiasts, others back to ‘50s

The fourth annual Jalopy Fest had its biggest turnout this past weekend.

About 400 vehicles were at the show Saturday, and halfway through the day Sunday, there was almost half that again at the Grundy County Fairgrounds.

“It’s about 20 to 25 percent growth over last year,” Bernie Myers, one of the founding members of Jalopy Fest, said. “It’s progressing. It gets bigger and bigger every year.”

Jalopy Fest is not your typical car show or cruise night, Myers said. The show welcomes 1964 hot rods and older and 1972 and older custom vehicles.

But it’s more than just the cars. The two-day event has a pinup girl contest, flame throwing contest, live bands, chopped-top limbo contest, a bonfire and much more.

“The people and the cars are what make this show special,” Myers said.

The variety of activities, as well as the cars, bring out spectators of all ages.

Eric Campbell of Bridgeview has attended the fest every year with his 1965 Chevy C10.

“I like that the cars aren’t all painted,” he said. “The kids can touch them and sit in them and no one gets mad. With those shiny cars, you can’t have no fun.”

Two of those kids were 7-year-olds Gavin Borger and Mateo Campasano, both of Plainfield.

The boys wandered vehicle to vehicle looking in the windows and commenting on some of the unique details of the hot rods and rat rods. Rat rods are hot rods put together with spare parts.

“I like how it’s rusty and stuff,” Borger said of one Chevy truck. “I also like looking at the engines sometimes.”

“I like the horn!” Campasano added.

Showgoers could shop for parts at the swap meet, as well as for 1950s and 1960s attire, home decor and even get their vehicle pinstriped.

Dave Walters of Famous Dave’s Ace Studios in Joliet was on hand doing custom paint on cars at the show.

“I come to all the hot rod shows. The only way to make a living at it is to stay visible,” he said as he pinstriped a 1936 Chevy Coupe as spectators watched over his shoulder.

Myers said its the cars and the people who have made Jalopy Fest a success. In addition to the unique vehicles, many people at the event dress in the 1950s style.

The car trends are starting to change a bit, he said. About five years ago, rat rods were very popular. Cars with no floor boards or doors made of street signs filled the show.

“But now those are starting to die off and people are spending a little time putting some interior work in,” Myers said.

The fest made an advertising push this year that brought out a lot of first-timers who commented on what a good time they had, Myers said.

Starting this week, the Jalopy Fest founders will start planning for next year. The dates have already been set for Sept. 6 and 7, 2014, again at the Grundy County Fairgrounds .

The fairgrounds offers a nostalgic feeling that is important to the atomsphere of the fest, Kevin Kiper said, another founder of the fest.

For more information on Jalopy Fest visit, search for them on Facebook or call 815-941-2575.

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