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30th Annual Daytona Turkey Run

The 2003 Daytona Turkey Run marked the 30th Anniversary for this powerhouse event held inside the world famous Daytona International Speedway. Always the largest show in the state, and the southeast, things were once again stepped up on the November 27-30 show dates. Though the evenings were pretty cold (for us “thin blooded” Floridians, with the evening winds not helping matters any), the weather during the days was mainly sunny and pleasant, which set the scene for a great Thanksgiving weekend full of cool cars.

Utilizing the grassy “Super Stretch” straightaway area between turns two and three the past few years has allowed the show vehicle count to go higher than the previous 5,000 limit. In fact, this year the count was 5,551 show vehicles, with room for more growth. This is one of those shows where the challenge is not really drawing participants, it’s finding a way to accommodate the growing numbers. Something the Daytona Beach Street Rods host club and the Daytona Beach Racing & Recreational Facilities District have done a very good job of over the years.

Though we didn’t get the official numbers until after the event, we could tell things were hopping starting on Thursday, which seemed up from the year before. Sure enough, spectator attendance hit a record number this year, with about 150,000 people entering the Speedway over the four days. Due to these record crowds the organizers have changed the procedure that will be used for spectators to gain entry into the show for next year, so expect things to go smoothly as they put the new plans into practice for 2004.

The legendary swap meet portion of the event, which fills nearly the whole west side of the infield, was once again in full effect for 2004. Every space was sold out, which has been the case for the last few if you are interested in getting a vendor spot next year register early, as many people get turned away once all the spots are spoken for. For someone looking to find that previously elusive used part this makes for a veritable sea of opportunity for hunting down the treasures it contains, with the only limit seeming to be how much energy a person might have. Plus, of course there are vendors selling new parts, and the arts and crafts portion is always interesting.

The car corral was again packed, with about 1,600 vehicles up for sale this year. Though we were not really intending to buy we always make a few trips through to see what is out there, which included a large variety. If we had the space to store them, and the money to buy them, it would have been easy to come home with a few new additions. While we personally didn’t wind up buying a new ride, there were plenty of people who did, and many vehicles changed hands during the event.

The official night time activities in the parking lot outside the Speedway across from the Hilton Garden Inn headquarters hotel were well attended. Activities included Slow Drags, Flame Thrower and Teeter Totter contests, with cash prizes for the best of each night. This was also the location for the Giveaway Car drawing at 9:00 pm on Saturday night. Sharon Hanson of Orange Park, Florida was this year’s lucky winner, and now hold the title to a sweet red ‘32 Ford Hiboy Roadster. Next year’s Giveaway car was then on display at the show Sunday, which will be a blue 1969 Camaro with a 383 stroker motor, Turbo 400 automatic, power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.

Of course there was plenty of action along A1A in the evenings, with people lining the sides of the road lounging in their lawn chairs to watch the cars go by, which is always fun. Plus, as always, the Belair Plaza was packed with cars and spectators. Unfortunately all the nighttime activities this year seemed a little down on the “prime” days. Friday saw rain in the early evening, and once it dried up things turned a bit cold and windy. Saturday was rain free, but again once the sun went down it was a bit cold and windy if you didn’t pack warm gear. We still withstood the elements every night, and so did many others in the name of some evening excitement.

The focus now turns to the 15th Annual Spring Daytona Beach Car Show & Swap Meet on March 19-21, 2004. Even at half the size of the Turkey Run it is still an awesome show, and we hope to see you there. For more info on either of the Daytona Speedway events visit and click around. CN