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Travel & Tourism

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by Shellie Jones

Heads will turn and jaws will drop as 1,600 brightly colored vintage automobiles make their way to Springfield next month to participate in the 15th annual Mid-America Street Rod Nationals. Drivers from across the nation will converge on the area May 15-17 to take part in the three-day event, which takes place at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds.

"These are high-dollar, high-class, superb machines," said Dale Hite, of Rods and Relics, the host club for this year's show. "And you won't find any two alike," added Pat Newell, special events director for the National Street Rod Association. NSRA, the largest street-rod organization in the world, produces this event.

For those unfamiliar with this type of vehicle, a street rod is an automobile manufactured prior to 1949 that has been modified for travel on today's highways. Even though they are vintage, most will sport the same creature comforts as the latest cars from Detroit air conditioning, stereos, power steering, cruise control, power brakes, late model suspension, new engines and drive trains.

But street rods carry with them something more a personalized signature of the owner. Since builders are not confined to guidelines set down by someone else, the sky's the limit when it comes to appearance. The end result is an automobile tailored to the owner's wants, yet it is a car that has the looks and charm of a vehicle 50, 60 or even 70 years old.

"One of the best parts about owning a street rod," Newell said, "is not in the creation of a unique vehicle, but the enjoyment after it is completed." And enjoy them they will, right here in our back yard.

This will be the second year in a row that the street rods have come to Springfield. Organizers say the city was selected "because of its geographical location, friendly people, availability of hotels, restaurants, local attractions and the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds."

Participation, particularly in the area of commercial vendors, is expected to surpass last year, thanks in large part to the fairgrounds' new E-Plex.

In addition to $32 million in automobiles, more than 100 commercial exhibitors of street-rod parts and accessories will be on hand to display and sell everything from radiators to wiring harnesses.

Thousands of handmade items by local and regional artisans will also be available at the Arts and Crafts Fair, running in conjunction with this event.

Other activities planned include a vintage auto parts swap meet, live entertainment, special displays and featured car areas. Music, games and fun for the entire family will be in abundance throughout the weekend. Tickets will be available at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds during show hours.

For more information about this and other events in the Springfield area, contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 881-5300 or 1-800-678-8767.

(Shellie Jones is communications coordinator for the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.)

PHOTO CAPTION:

Vintage autos will participate in the Mid-America Street Rod Nationals at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend.

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