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31st Annual Daytona Turkey Run

The big question on everyone’s mind for the 2004 Turkey Run was of course: How would the construction inside the Speedway affect the show? There was lots of speculation, and another magazine even had the audacity to take it upon themselves to proclaim the event should be canceled for 2004....despite the fact that the host club, the Daytona Beach Street Rods, and the Daytona Beach Racing & Recreational Facilities District were assuring everyone that things would go just fine over Thanksgiving weekend, on November 25th thru the 28th. Well....I guess the truth can be simply told in the cold hard facts - this was the biggest show EVER attendance wise, with over 100,000 people packing the world’s most famous Speedway over the four days. Everything went pretty much perfect, and certainly everyone on hand was glad that the Daytona Beach Street Rods knew how to adapt to the circumstances in a pretty impressive manner, and host another killer Turkey Run. Bah! Who would have thought otherwise?!?!

The weather sure played a good part in the success as well, as it was very pleasant most of the time. The rain that did come on Saturday didn’t happen until about 5:00pm, which meant almost everyone had already left the Speedway. The precipitation did put a bit of a damper on the night time activities on Saturday....but all the other nights were packed full of the usual fun. This included the long standing tradition of cruisin’ along A1A, with spectators setting up lawn chairs along the sidewalk to take it all in....something everyone should experience at least once. Plus, the official night time activities were once again held in the front parking lot of the Speedway at the corner of Midway and International Speedway Boulevard, with the addition of lights, easy road access, and plenty of places to park. Highlights in this area included the Slow Drags, Flame Thrower and Teeter Totter contests with cash prizes each night, plus a fun interactive drag race simulator. The Speedway parking lot was also the location for the Giveaway Car drawing on Saturday night at 9:00pm. For 2004 everyone had their fingers crossed hoping to win the nice 1969 Camaro, but in the end it was Jack Bartlett Jr. from St. Marys, Georgia that held the winning ticket. The 2005 Giveaway Car will be a 1963 Chevy II Nova SS, so keep your hopes and buy a few chances to take home a cool car next Thanksgiving weekend.

With 5,055 show vehicles in attendance, it did take the use of some areas of the Speedway that haven’t been utilized in the past to make up for the areas lost due to the improvements made in the infield, and some construction that was still taking place which kept those areas from being used. The most noticeable thing might have been having show cars on the grass in Turns 3 and 4, literally just a few feet from the banking. That was a pretty neat sight in itself, and allowed everyone the closest look ever of the big banks while at the Turkey Run....which never fail to impress me due to their angle and height when standing so near to their base.

The car corral was probably the most noticeably impacted aspect of the show for 2004, as it was moved from the garage area and the adjoining grassy areas to the backstretch of the Speedway. As always, there were lots and lots of cars and trucks to be had in the sold out car corral, and many of them did indeed trade hands. While the new location did cause a bit of confusion, I heard many comments that it was nice the way all of the corral cars were grouped together and easy to navigate through - instead of in the nooks and crannies of various fenced in areas like in years past. The one drawback was that with the cars on the backstretch, they were a long walk away from some others areas of the show. However, the show staff had arranged for several free trams running around the apron of the track, with stops at the car corral at Gate 50, the swap meet at Gate 23, the main spectator entrance at Gate 7, and between Turns 3 and 4 for the show cars.

As always, one of the highlights of the Turkey Run was the huge swap meet area, which never fails to disappoint. If you’ve got the time, energy and shoe leather, you can find some pretty good deals on all sorts of stuff....including some ultra-rare items that you’d be hard pressed to find at any other swap meet. Words can’t really explain the swap meet experience at the Turkey Run, so I won’t try to do so here. Just take my word that if you want the best swap meet around, come to the Speedway over Thanksgiving weekend ready to wheel and deal. Of course there are also new parts vendors as well, and we went home with a new steering column for the redo of our ‘57 Chevy Sedan Delivery, plus some smaller items.

One of the unavoidable limitations of the Turkey Run in 2004 was that to go from the swap meet area to the show cars (or vice versa) the only option was one route....through the row of food vendors. This was a bottle-neck that saw thick crowds all weekend....but with the gates up around some of the construction areas for safety purposes it was really unavoidable. However, the good news is that such won’t be the case for future Daytona shows, as they’ll have all the facilities available again.

Speaking of future Daytona shows, next up is the 16th Annual Spring Daytona Beach Car Show & Swap Meet on March 18-20 inside the Speedway, and the 32nd Annual Turkey Run will take place on November 24-27, 2005. We hope to see you at both shows, and for more info on either of them you can visit CN