The weekend of July 28-31 brought the 31st Annual Leadsled Spectacular to Oakdale Park in Salina, Kansas. Of course, the weekend included more than just a show ‘n shine in the park. . .a whole lot more! I took off in a friend’s ’54 Delray just after dinner on Thursday with the air on (both vents open and door glass down) and the Chevy six hummin’ through those Smitty mufflers as we cruised down the highway. Temps were around the century mark!! After a stop for lunch at the A & W in Columbus and other stops for fuel and some cold waters, we arrived in Salina around 6:30 p.m. and headed for Registration. We had a comp room for Thursday at the Fairfield Inn & Suites and welcomed the air conditioned room that thoughtful staff had at 60 degrees. . .can you say ahhhhhh!!
Actually driving down hadn’t been too bad, after running through a little shower near Geneva, Nebraska, temps actually cooled down a bit until we got to Salina. After a brief rest, we headed out for the first stop of the weekend. . .the “Crank-up Party” at Bright Built Hot Rods. This is an awesome shop that cranks out a lot of cool mild and high end rods and Kustoms in the country just west and south of Salina. They provided free barbecue pork sandwiches and other refreshments to a full house of participants. Because we got there late, we grabbed a quick sandwich and made a tour of the facility before heading to Oakdale Park to line up for the Old Skool “Spectacular Cruise” down Salina’s famed and historic main drag. . .Santa Fe Street. It was just like a scene out of American Graffiti with hundreds of Rods and Kustoms and thousands of spectators lining the streets. We made at least three “rounds” of side by side cruisin’. While cruisin’ we ran into our friends Roger and Dan Jetter from Colorado in their awesome mid-fifties Caddy’s. Roger’s ’55 was in paint this year and looked amazing!! We also made a stop at the Sonic on Santa Fe Street for a photo op and something cool to drink.
We got up early Friday morning and headed back to the park. As part of his entry, we got a free 10’ x 10’ vendor space, and had the trunk chocked full of spare parts my friend had been picking up at swap meets and auctions (with kustom car builders in mind). At the same time, he displayed his car along side the parts and actually made enough that one day to pay for the room in his regular motel for the next two nights. . . and then some!! During the day on Friday, we got reacquainted with a number of old friends.
Other activities included personal appearances where you could visit one on one with hot rodding legends Bill Hines, Darryl Starbird, George Barris, John D’Agostino, Bo Huff, Gene Windfield, KKOA President Jerry Titus and a number of KKOA Hall of Famers. Another celebrity on hand was Katherine Wentworth. . .better know as Morgan Brittany from the hit TV show “Dallas”. You could also check out a number of parts vendors, food vendors (including Rubbing Butts BBQ) and a number of booths for the ladies with everthing from jewelry to clothing and handbags.
At 10:00 a.m., the KKOA’s Godzilla Garage opened and you could follow the progress of Bill Hines and Brad Masterson as they began their chop of a Shoebox Ford. . .to be completed by Sunday. Not far away, the Backyard boys (Jerry Dillenger, Paul Langley, Everett Reynolds and Larry Clearly) began their weekend project . . .sectioning a ’56 Merc!! There was also Tiki carving (with a chain saw) by Artist Paul McNutt, a Model Car Contest and the 1st Annual Bicycle Spoke-tacular for kids of all ages. And, who could forget live music by Eddie Valen and the Valenires and the KKOA’s Annual Pin-Up Beauty Contest.
In the registration packets, we discovered a couple of coupons for Cozy Burger. . .buy six and get two free!! Cozy Burgers are a Salina tradition, and you have to give these sliders a try if you’re in town. Only problem is. . being fried-up with onions, slathered with mustard and with no other condiments available, after you eat ‘em, everyone knows you’ve been there!! Still, we grabbed a bag full and were off to the races. . .literally!!
By 5:00 p.m. Friday, everyone had gathered at Salina’s E. Crawford Park (the old Salina airport – now a city park w/ball fields right next to the golf course) for the Annual Run What’ya Brung Drag Races. This event just gets bigger every year and attracts hundreds of racers and thousands of spectators for some 1/8th mile drag racing that includes rods, kustoms and race cars. . .including a few nostalgia front-engined rails and even a modern funny car making some single, “exhibition runs” for the crowd.
After the races, we headed back downtown for yet another shop tour and kool Hangin’ out Party at Calvin’s Custom Shop on N. Santa Fe Street. Participants were treated to free beer on tap, BBQ pork sandwiches with baked beans and potato salad. You could also check out the projects in the shop and take in the live band (the Soul Preachers) in the adjoining parking lot. While there, we also ran into Dennis Gage from the Speed Channel’s series “My Classic Car”. Dennis was in town for the entire weekend filming through-out the weekend for an upcoming episode in 2012. A bit of trivia here. . .did you ever notice the cartoon caricature of the little dude with the big mustache on the Pringle’s Potato Chip cans? That’s right, Dennis invented those stackable chips!! In fact, if you look close, you might be surprised what else on your grocery shelves was created by Dennis!!
On Saturday, Salina’s Destination Committee ran a shuttle for the ladies so they could shop downtown during the afternoon and the first 100 ladies received goodie bags filled with coupons and special offers. The KKOA’s Flatland Panel Jam had a number of the nation’s best pinstripers making works of art out of common, everyday items that were later auctioned off to benefit M.A.D.D.
Live stage entertainment included Victor Trevino, Jr. as Elvis, the young rebel years and Bennie Wheels and his Walking the Line tribute to the man in black. . .Johnny Cash. And you didn’t want to miss the Eddie Valen and the Valenires, the Benders, the Adam Lee Band and Brian Dunning and the Rockabilly Trio. The Spectacular Pin-Up Contest also continued on Saturday.
We didn’t attend Jerry Titus’ KKOA Tonight Show Saturday evening, opting to drive 20 miles to Abilene, Kansas to enjoy a meal at the Brookville Hotel. . .a modern reincarnation of the hotel originally built in Brookville, Kansas in 1870. Originally south and west of Salina, Brookville was a cow town that didn’t grow with the railroad as they had hoped. It was relocated east along the interstate at Abilene, but is still owned by the same family now in their fourth generation. This restaurant is famous for their family-style fried chicken dinners that include relishes, sweet-sour (Pennsylvania-style) coleslaw, cottage cheese, one-half skillet fried chicken (per person), real mashed potatoes w/cream gravy, cream-style corn, baking powder biscuits with cream butter and real strawberry preserves. . .finished off with home-style vanilla ice cream. All this is served up by friendly staff (who kept checking to see if we needed refills on any bowls of food) on Blue Willow china with linen table clothes and napkins in a homey atmosphere. Luckily, we got in under the wire at 7:15, as their dinner hours on Saturday were 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. For just $14.99 each, if you went away hungry, it was your own fault!!
After the drive back to Salina, we cruised a bit before heading for the Mid-America Inn where we walked the parking lot and took in some flame thrower exhibitions before checking out the Bombay Lounge for a night of fun (beginning at 10:00 p.m.) with Brian Dunning and the Rockabilly Trio. Brian and the guys would later be joined by Eddie Valen and Victor Travino, Jr. (young Elvis) who joined in the fun and put on quite a show. . .during the show, we sucked down quite a few cold Silver Bullets and enjoyed the antics of “Pearl”, a local who according to Brian “looks like the hood ornament on a ‘50s Pontiac (he really does), and enjoys the band even more than most. . .before we made it back our motel around 2:00 a.m. Sunday, we stopped back at the park to say goodbye to friends and make a final cruise around before heading for home. If you’ve never attended the KKOA’s Leadsled Spectacular in Salina, you really need to make plans to put this huge national event on your calendar for next year!!