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River Ranch Rod Run • January 29-30, 2010
story and photos by Dennis Sammon

River Ranch 2010! Yes, the new year always starts out great when you can hit “the Ranch” for sun, fun and 300+ hot rods, classics and trucks. Friday night, January 29th, marked the kickoff party for Sunshine State Rodding News’ 21st Annual River Ranch Rod Run. Friday night activities included popcorn and refreshments for the early arrivals. WJBJ Cruisin’ With The Classics was set up and ready to rock you for the weekend, playing your favorite tunes. By the time we had gotten in there were already several dozen parked, poised and taking part in the kick-off festivities. Registration and T-shirt / sweatshirt sales begin Friday night as well, and with a slight chill in the air, a classic River Ranch Rod Run sweatshirt was a welcomed addition to my apparel collection. The Saloon was open and cranked up for those wanting to kick-up their heels and get “primed” for the show.

Saturday morning started out looking like a great day. After finishing breakfast at the Smokehouse, the early morning rumble of hot rods crossing the Kissimmee River was evident over on nearby Highway 60. Although Westgate Resorts River Ranch is a full-on, year-round fun spot, it just so happens the Rod Run is it’s best attraction in my book. What a way to start the rod run season.

A steady line of cars cruised in, making their way to spots here and there. The Black Dog Garage guys get there just in time, with new comer Mike Waters in his fresh built red deuce roadster. C & C Rod Shop with their crew of bodacious black cars were rumbling into their spots, and even a rare 4-Door Rambler pulled in amongst slammed and candy colored rides.

Jimmy “Goldfinger” Turman found room with his Prowler Gold Hemi ’32 Plymouth coupe. After all, it’s hard to stuff all three hundred and ninety-two cubic inches of valve covers into just one parking space. Abagail had her lime green ’32 roadster stroller shining, while grandpa Jimmy Downs matched her ride with an actual size ’32 Ford 3-Window. All while Butch and Jennifer Johnston of WJBJ were already cranking the tunes and making announcements in the background.

The registration tent was buzzing with activity, shirt sales were going well, the door prizes staged, and tickets for the raffles were selling like hotcakes. Hey, with a chance to win a full sized tool box (or your choice of four other prizes), sell me a dozen!

Once the field was getting full, it was time to check out the swap meet section across the road from the show area. With plenty of room for expansion left, it was a great turnout for parts peddlers, with some good deals at each stop.

The weather was nice; mild, with a bit of cloud cover, and luckily that meant I wasn’t sweating. The day was great, with everyone roaming the field in a daze wondering which car or truck might be their favorite of the show. I liked the copper wait, the primered Willys’ is cool, especially with an early Hemi under the hood, or maybe the red ’31 Vicky from Michigan. No wait, I think the....hold on! Is that a’63 Plymouth Fury sitting there off to the side? That’s it! That’s my kick-butt favorite of the show. Jack Heckman of Clearwater was one lucky guy driving the sinister streetcar stuffed with 440 power. The restored black beauty with red interior cranked me up. And you thought I was going for a street rod. Hey, I like them all. Trust me, there were so many cool rides that showed up, there were plenty to go around. After a drooling session, we were off in another direction again.

We got our fill of BBQ at the vendor tent next to the camp fire, when it was almost time for the awards and door prizes. Rich and Linda Martin certainly put on a great show, and the greatest part is they give away $100 cash to one lucky pre-registered participant. Makes you want to get those registrations in early for next year, doesn’t it? Everyone gathered around the WJBJ DJ trailer in hopes of hearing their number called.

Prior to the grand give-away, Rich announced he wanted to pay tribute and dedicated this years show to the late, great Vinnie Margotta. Vinnie was ever present at the previous 20 Rod Run’s selling raffle tickets and generally helping out with a friendly face and good humor. He unfortunately passed away this year. Vinnie will be missed greatly.

After door prizes galore, the kids games winners were announced. Long Distance and Hard Luck and Club Participation awards were also handed out. Finally it was time for the grand prizes...yes PRIZES. There are several grand prizes offered with your raffle ticket, so the choice is yours. You want the tool box, your wife wants the custom patchwork quilt made with love and T-shirt designs from car shows of past. Tough call.

The show festivities were wrapping up a bit earlier than usual because of the threat of a rainstorm blowing through. It looked bad, but it never rained. I heard reports of folks heading to the west that got soaked, but we never got any. Hmmm, hopefully everyone made it home safe for yet another chance to enjoy the Sunshine State Rodding News’ River Ranch Rod Run at Westgate Resorts next year.

Thanks again to the folks that worked their tail off for a great show; Rich and Linda Martin and their host of family and friends. Until next year, be safe, register early....and don’t forget if you stay over, stick around to attend the Rodeo on Saturday nights. Yeeeehaaaaa! CN