While cleaning the smeared Texas bugs from the headlights and grille of my Biscayne the other night, I started thinking about the great time we had at the Lonestar Round Up in Austin a couple weeks ago. (See our coverage at Round Up.) After almost 20 years, it’s still one of the great independent events and even though it’s bigger than ever, it still carries a cozy vibe.
I’ve attended the show for over a dozen years, right before it outgrew the small park downtown, forced to move to the much larger Travis County Fairgrounds just east of downtown. The Round Up grew from a humble beginning when the Kontinentals car club and few friends gathered on a high school football field to the sprawling show that continues to bring enthusiasts to the Texas capitol from around the globe.
What is it about the Round Up that keeps rodders coming back to Austin? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but the hot rods are obviously the star of the show and there are plenty of them. I don’t care if you’re into rat rods, customs, street rods, or traditional and historic cars — Lonestar brings them all in.
With the model year capped at 1963, you still see plenty of full-size cruisers and even shoeboxes. Engines are just as varied and you’ll see plenty of everything except Gen III, Coyotes, or late-model Hemis (okay, maybe a couple). In fact, small-block Chevys may actually be in the minority. For those that are there, they’re usually equipped with a classic multi-carb setup.
The heart of Lonestar is obviously the cars, but it’s a combination of everything else going on at the same time. It’s the variety of food, music, unique art, and lifestyle goods. It’s the vintage parts in the swap meet, the afterhours events and cruising the city. Wrap it all up, put a bow on it and share that vibe with thousands of other like-minded enthusiasts there simply to hang out, talk cars, and have fun.
That said, I jotted down my top five reasons (other than the cars) as to why the Round Up continues to rock-and-roll and gets me to traverse the barren West Texas terrain year after year. In fact, it’s already on my calendar for 2020, which is set for April 17-18 — we’ll see you there!
1) The Swap Meet
Hot rodders were the first recyclers; scrounging junkyards for engines and parts. So, it stands to reason that where there are vintage cars, there are also guys looking for parts for another project — or maybe looking for a new project altogether! The Round Up swap meet is chock full of vintage speed parts, old tin, complete cars, and of course a fine mix of automobilia.
2) The Vendors
There’s a great mix of vendors at the show, from nationwide aftermarket brands to pomade for a slick hairdo, original artwork, fun clothing for the ladies, and more. You can get a haircut while reading the brochure about a new chassis, find out more about an A/C system, wiring, or check out a gas can planter for the garden. Plenty of cool things to pile into your car for the drive home.
3) The Music
Austin is known as the Music Capitol of the World. Since there are so many venues for live music within the city, you can easily catch some toe-tapping blues, country, or rock. Lonestar always delivers a diverse and great line-up for both Friday and Saturday during the show. This year saw a stellar line up including everything from classic Texas country blues to Russian surf rockers and ska/cumbia flavors.
4) The Food
Austin is also known for its food trucks and Texas BBQ, so this is one show where you can avoid the fairground fried food! Craving slow cooked ribs, Mexican, souped-up burgers or turkey legs? You have your pick. Be sure to try a scoop of Amy’s Ice Cream or an Oasis brew (or both!).
5) The Afterhours
As if there isn’t enough happening on the grounds of the Travis County Expo Center, once you leave the grounds it’s like another event. If you need more live music, just cruise up South Congress to any number of clubs (with a mandatory stop at the Continental Club) or a bit further into town and prowl 4th or 6th street. Top Notch Burgers hosts a cruise night and drive-in movie, Austin Speed Shop opens its doors for a rollicking good time open house, Jo’s Coffee serves up more music and java, or you can grab a Home Slice right down the street. The music scene is non-stop along with food trucks and other great spots for a late night bite.