Antique Auto Fest 2018

Photos by Tavi Ellis

Roaring Retro

48th Annual Antique Auto Fest rolls into town, Sept. 7-8

Cars, camaraderie and community

Morris Dillow has been interested in antique cars since he was 14, when his 80-year-old mentor inspired him to love Model Ts. Today, Dillow continues to share that love at the 48th annual Antique Auto Fest, slated for Friday, Sept. 7, and Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Great Passion Play.

The festival features hundreds of restored classics, hot rods, street machines, customs, rat rods, muscle cars and rare trucks, all competing for more than 25 judged awards. Early car registration is slated for 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, followed by the popular sunset cruise around Beaver Lake. Pre-registration for cars begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, with the gates opening to the public at 9 a.m. The awards presentation is scheduled for 3 p.m., followed by the car parade through downtown Eureka Springs.

There are 30 judging categories, including Best in Show, Best Engine, Best Paint, Best Interior, Rat Rod, Street Rod, Pre-War Stock Class and Best Race Car. Dillow said he’s hoping to see up to 400 cars at the event, saying that’s an improvement from last year.

“We expect the 257 we had last year, and we’re hoping for 150 more,” Dillow said.

Eric Studer, who is organizing the event with Dillow, said there are several new offerings at the event, including a costume contest, valve cover racing and more vendors.

“There will be more vendors and better food and beverage options,” Studer said. “Participants will have a chance to win a cash reward.”

This is the second year the festival has been held at the Passion Play. It was moved from Pine Mountain Village, Dillow said, to help grow the event.

“We could not get the cars we had last year into Pine Mountain Village,” Dillow said. “We could only get half that many. At the Passion Play, we have room to expand.

“In the past, they filled up the parking lot with show cars and there was no real parking for the visitors,” Studer added. “There were limited food and beverage options. We’re thankful the Passion Play volunteered their space.”

The best part of the event, Dillow said, is that a portion of the proceeds will benefit ECHO Clinic, a non-profit organization offering low-cost healthcare to the citizens of Carroll County. Studer said he’s proud to help such an important organization.

“It’s very rewarding. I don’t think I can say enough good things about the ECHO Clinic,” Studer said. “The quality of their work is a testament to why they’ve been on 60 Minutes and all sorts of other national news programs.”

When he and Dillow got involved with the event, Studer said, they wanted to be sure it was community-wide. That means the vendors, T-shirts and handmade trophies are all locally based.

“This is a city-wide promotion. It’s not just for people who are into cars,” Studer said. “It’s about the coming together of car culture and the community, seeing such a wide range of work from stock to totally rebuilt antique cars to rat rods. For me, it’s like a buffet. There’s something for everyone.”

Car culture brings everyone together, Dillow said, regardless of where they come from.

“It doesn’t make any difference what background you’re from. If you have a car with four wheels, you come in and everybody’s friends,” Dillow said. “They aren’t looking at what you have in your wallet. They’re looking at what you’re driving.”

“It’s a network of friends you haven’t met yet, and it’s for everybody,” Studer said. “Jay Leno is one of the most famous guys in America, and he still drives to a local hamburger drive-in on Friday night cruises, because everybody has a common ground. You don’t have to be a multimillionaire to own a nice car, or even to appreciate one.”

Dillow encouraged everyone to check out the cars at the Passion Play, saying he’s excited to see how the event turns out. If everything goes well, he said, he expects the festival to continue expanding over the next two years.

“In two years, it’ll be the 50th fest, and we hope to fill every piece of grass at the Passion Play with cars,” Dillow said. “We feel we can push up to 1,000 cars.”

In the meantime, Studer said, he’s ready to see everyone at the 48th festival.

“We hope everybody gets involved,” Studer said. “Whether you like cars or not, you can come out and have fun.”