If you’re a street rod buff then “Back to the 50s” is the place to be the end of June. Held annually at Minnesota’s State fairgrounds, the show attracts close to 12,000 pre-1965 cars. Their owners settle in camp chairs along paved streets beneath any shade they can find or create — cozying up to their entries — feasting on the magnetic attention these gleaming collector models attract.
I went reluctantly the first time. I am not a machine aficionado. Throw any sort of mechanical challenge at me and I duck. It’s either that or get knocked out. My husband’s friend who was supposed to go canceled and somehow I got talked into it. When you live in the Twin Cities the “call of the cars” around Father’s Day is hard to ignore.
“You’ll have fun. It’s not what you think.” Sure. I dreaded it all the way up I-35E to St. Paul. I was going to have to meander for blocks and stand there bored while he enthusiastically examined a multitude of engines and miscellaneous other car guts.
Instead I was transported to a classy era of street rods with interiors as impressive as exteriors. A sea of color. Detail work worthy of an art gallery. Their personalities as individual as people lined up for a parade. And parade they did — especially in the evening, some with neon lights, a few shooting flames out the exhaust. I yelled at the drivers as loud as anybody, “Sound your pipes!”
This was after the rock ‘n’ roll bands had finished their sets. People gathered on the open air benches in front of the band shell with their favorite food vendor fare — Sweet Martha’s warm chocolate chip cookies, and fresh squeezed lemonade for me. The old beats rockin’ the summer night.
It was mesmerizing. I was shocked at how mistaken I’d been. I had to be dragged away when the gates closed. It became our “June thing” every year. Something the guy could take his wife to. The original Mr. Motor-head who had about given up on said wife sharing any shred of his interest.
It’s happened more than once. This business of thinking of someone else. What they might like instead of what I wish to do — or not do. The surprise result is I end up feeling like one of those classic cars. Mint condition. Lots of shiny chrome. Plenty of roar in the pipes.