Despite fears that the closure of Carson National Forest would put a damper on this year’s fun, the 26th Annual Red River Car Show on Saturday, June 4, at Brandenburg Park went off without a hitch. Sunny weather and mild alpine temperatures prevailed as 117 auto enthusiasts gathered from around New Mexico and the surrounding states to show off their rides. Entrants came from as far away as Las Cruces, Big Spring, Texas, and Hugoton, Kansas to compete for bragging rights and cash prizes, including $500 for Best in Show.
Some who came took the competitive aspect more seriously than others; “Every vote for me comes with a free beer,” joked one particularly relaxed car owner. Others stood by their vehicles to campaign passersby, showing off their restoration skills and their cars’ technical aspects to the curious, making the case for their pride-and-joy projects. Those with vehicles in crowded categories, like “Cars 1960-1969,” were amongst the most eager competitors.
The more than 1,500 tourists and locals who attended came as much for the fun and festive atmosphere as the contest. Owners like Michael Torres of Mountainair, New Mexico, who decorates his all-original black 1957 Buick Special with cartoon character toys and a fake In-N-Out Burger meal, says; “I come to car shows and I see the adults with their kids, and the kids are all bored. They don’t want to see that. But I started doing this [decorating] and it attracted the kids. That way it’s not boring for them,” he said, while the 1960 hit song “The Twist” played from his car’s speakers.
Everyone was ready to share their enthusiasm for cars. “It’s just plain fun,” said Janice Baker of Sedalia, Colorado, who owns a 1963 Chevy Nova SS convertible with her husband David. “It’s been a personal hobby since I was a 16-year-old,” he said. “This is the first one I ever really restored. [I’ve had it] since ’95,” he says of his cream white classic, which he bought from the quintessential “little old lady from Las Vegas… who only drove it on the weekends.” Beaming with pride, he said, “It was halfway through the wringer when I got it,” although now it looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor.
The owner of the show’s oldest car, Matt Ratzlaff of Monte Vista, Colorado, was happy to explain the method for driving his 1916 Ford Model-T racer. “It’s the most confusing thing ever to drive… the wide one that should be the throttle, that’s the brake pedal. Then the two levers up on the steering column… the one on the right is the throttle. You got to take a minute and remember what you’re driving before you just go.” It was a family affair, as Matt’s wife Christina brought her own yellow 1972 Chevy El Camino to show off as well.
Their kids came too, as did hundreds of other children. Thankfully, the city thought of everything and provided some non-automotive activities for the wee ones, including hula hoops and bean bag toss games, in addition to the park’s playground equipment. Vendors experienced brisk business selling food and refreshments; one stand selling “tin cup lemonade” rarely had a break in their line.
Planning the show was not as simple as opening a park and making an announcement. Red River Tourism and Economic Development Director Max Khudiakov said planning for the show began in December. “We’ve done a lot of research on how to categorize the vehicles for the show. We also worked with the New Mexico Car Club Council on getting the word out to all the car clubs in the state. Then there were all the graphics—t-shirts, posters, that kind of stuff. Then there was getting the concert together.” To make the most of all the foot traffic, a citywide garage sale was held by residents and businesses all along Main Street, another feat of coordination for the planners.
All their hard work paid off when Tourism Service Coordinator Sydney Von Strohe announced the winners of the 20 categories. And, while all the winners were thrilled to be selected, none were more thrilled than Best in Show winner Michael Cedillo of Placitas, New Mexico. “I was very surprised!” So surprised he called his 1927 Ford Roadster hotrod a ’72!
Following the announcement of the winners and an impromptu parade of cars leaving the park, Nashville singer John King, who co-wrote Randy Houser’s hit song “We Went,” played a show in support of this debut album “Always Gonna Be You” to an enthusiastic crowd.
Chevy Nova owner David Baker may have summed the whole day up best when he said, “This is an awesome car show!”
Used with permission from the Enchanted Circle News