For the third year in a row, in the corn fields of north central Illinois, there was an invasion of fire spitting gnarly rods and customs. The Grundy County Speedway is located in the small town of Morris and is the perfect location for a weekend festival of all things encompassing the Kustom Kulture, drawing in crowds from Chicago and beyond.
It’s the kind of show where you can feel comfortable bringing your old beat down jalopy or driving your highly customized radical machine. Either way, you will be made to feel like you are part of the family. One of the first things we noticed as we walked through the gates was that these people were the kind that live and breathe hot rods and all that the hobby has to offer day in and day out. It was about likeminded folks getting together just to have a good time.
This cool display is the brainchild of Bernie and Marcia Myers of Morris, Illinois. After seeing the fun that could be had with another traditional car show, they thought it would be awesome to try and keep that style of show in the area so they got together and brought Jalopy Fest to life. Over the past three years they have seen their show more than triple in size and popularity.
One very obvious reason why we believe it has grown is the way the staff takes care of all the attendees who come through the gate. Almost like the loving mom, Marcia walks around with her husband and says hello to almost everyone. If you aren’t the huggy type, be sure to steer clear of her, because while wearing the biggest heart-felt smile, she will definitely show you how happy she is you came out to the show.
There is something to be said about attending a killer traditional rockabilly car show and having car clubs who have come from all over the Midwest to the middle of a corn field to party together and welcome strangers in as if they have known each other their whole life. Talking about cars, mods, music, and tattoos – you can hear the common bonds shared throughout the conversations.
There are a few restrictions to the show, such as, your car needs to be 1972 or earlier with no billet, absolutely no trailer queens allowed and crybabies (not crying babies) will not be tolerated. We won’t argue with that, after all, this is a celebration of the traditional era of automobiles and the music that all seemed to be meld perfectly together.
The vehicles that were on display were nothing short of amazing. We feel the true hot rodder can find beauty in even the most rusted out junkyard heap; however most of these were far from being ready for the scrap yard. From a finely sculpted piece of iron art that may have been built with the expert hands of a professional car builder such as Voodoo Larry to the classic lines and timeless curves of a Detroit steel car fully restored by a lady who just needed to work things out in her head, we were able to see many different levels of hotrods at one kick-ass event.
We found some of the most radical flame throwers you will ever come across, breathing fire like steel dragons thirty feet into the cool night’s sky. On Saturday night the Voodoo Kings Kustom Car Club hosted the “Ring of Fire” flame throwing contest. There were about 20 cars that entered this hot competition and here you could see just about anything you can think of shooting out some radical flames.
Straight six single exhaust cars pushing fire through the pipes, pickups burning the paint off the rear quarters and even the ‘Mad Scientist’ riding his bicycle around with his color changing propane fueled Jet Bike. However, it was evident that the true crowd of pyros went nuts when the big dawgs of the fire spitters backed into position.
With their massive pipes jutting out the backs of their cars, they would get warmed up by pushing a few flames. The smell of raw fuel floating in the air would get the crowd excited for what was to come. At the controls, the drivers would slowly bring the RPMs up, the anticipation of the hungry spectators would grow, then without warning, the accelerator would be mashed and like an angry metal machine, an incredible orange ball of flame would be thrown out ready to torch anything in its path of fury.
“It was a great flame show, but wait till next year when the ‘Creeper’ is done,” Voodoo Larry told us. Just as with the custom scene, pushing the limits of what can be done, these guys (and gals) are finding new and inventive ways to throw flames further and harder then the last time.
There were plenty of cool vendors on hand selling their rockabilly goods. They even had a tattoo artist set up to sling some ink for that permanent memory of the show. We also spoke to Wrenchin’ Wendy who had a booth set up selling what she calls her Psychobilly Goodies. She is the owner Backseat Betty’s Bootique in Waukegan, Illinois.
Wendy drove her 1957 Skyliner to the show, which she completely overhauled herself. This was the first time at this show and she told us, “Hot rods, classic cars, building the stuff yourself and talking about how you did it. Everyone’s having a great time with all the same common interests. I’m definitely coming back next year.”
Jalopy fest has no shortage of very talented musicians playing. Over the weekend we heard some of the best rockabilly music to date. “We try to keep the bands local, to give them as much exposure as possible,” Bernie Myers told us. You may remember the band name “Iron Horse” who recently played their rockabilly, bluegrass sound on America’s Got Talent.
Bands like the “Meerkat Mobsters” burned up the stage on Saturday, while “Lil’ Red and the Howling Wolves” kept it moving on Sunday. Along with all that excitement, Saturday night on the main stage was the Battle of the Bands. These bands fought it out hard to win the title of baddest band. No one wanted to end the night early and it was a good thing there was free camping at the speedway for people to crash out and wake up early Sunday to start it all over again.
Now of course no traditional show would be complete without the sexy and sultry pinup contest for the title of Miss Jalopy Fest. One thing that was clearly evident was Jalopy Fest did not disappoint when it came to the classy girls walking across the stage and by the reaction from the packed main stage pavilion area, it looks as if these girls knew how to keep them wanting more. This year they even decided to have the “Little Greaser” and “Little Miss Jalopy” contests. These had to be the coolest little kids on the planet coming out sporting their greased back hair and cuffed jeans, while the girls were cute as ever.
All in all it was well worth our time to spend the weekend hanging out in Morris, Illinois. We were able to meet more of the cool people who have been enjoying this “fad” called the Kustom Kulture for years. People like this don’t have anything to prove other than how to have a great time building cars, partying and letting others join in on the fun. So come out next year, and check out Jalopy Fest to see for yourself!
Check out the Rod Authority GALLERY below for more live action: