Friday night when Rod Roy drags Main Street in downtown Hays he’ll be driving a 1955 Chevy Cameo pickup, one of only 10,000 made from 1955 to 1958 when the Detroit car maker introduced a stylish pickup with deluxe interior.
“It would have been considered a city man’s pick up,” said Roy. “You wouldn’t haul bales with it. It’s too nice. It wouldn’t be feasible for a farmer to haul pigs to town in it.”
Roy is a volunteer helping organize the third annual Thunder on the Plains car, truck and cycle show, which kicks off Friday night when the vehicles cruise Main. That will be followed by a free dance at the Downtown Pavilion with Hays’ favorite Jimmy Dee and the Fabulous Destinations.
It’s hard to say how many cars will show-up and pay the $25 entry fee to be part of the two-day cruise event, said Harold Bettis, also a volunteer organizer.
“We never know til that day,” Bettis said. “Last year we had 275 entries.”
While people may think a cruise night is just for classic cars, Bettis said the event is actually open to anyone who wants to show off a special car, truck or motorcycle.
That can mean a classic car, which is one that’s several decades old and has not been modified, he said, or an antique, or a street rod, which is a car that’s been modified. Then there are rat rods, Bettis said, which might be an old rusty unpainted car somebody found out in a field.
And there also will be drag racers and sprint cars. “That’s where the thunder comes from,” Bettis laughed.
Line-up for the cruise starts at 6 p.m. in the parking lot of Westlake Ace Hardware at 33rd and Vine Streets. A police escort will lead the cruisers down 27th Street to Main Street. Because Main Street is closed at 10th Street due to a water main break that’s being repaired, the cruisers will make a detour to 11th Street and Fort and back to Main via Ninth Street, then finish their drive to Early Childhood Connections, where they’ll drive around the block and head back to 11th and Main streets to park for the evening.
People are invited to bring their lawn chairs to the pavilion, where Jimmy Dee will be playing rock ’n roll from the 1950s, ’60s and ‘70s.
The idea is to recreate cruising like it was done back in the day, said Roy, who cruised downtown Main in the 1970s. He drove over from Stockton to be a part of the long line of cars that drove bumper to bumper for hours, up and down Main.
“We’re just trying to bring that old nostalgia back,” said Roy. Back in 1974 he had a 1967 Corvette with a 427 four speed.
“I was very privileged. My dad helped me buy it,” Roy said. “I grew up on a farm and that was my payment for a year. We were at a car auction in Victoria and he started bidding on it. It really shocked me.”
Even newer muscle cars, like a Camaro, a Charger or a Challenger, are welcome.
Saturday’s events will be at Frontier Park East, Highway 183 Bypass, with car registration from 8 a.m. to noon and prizes awarded at 3 p.m. Each entry gets a goodie bag, and winners of numerous categories get a range of prizes, including some that take away cash.
The event is free to the public, and attendees vote for their favorite for the People’s Choice. Vendors will have a broad range of food for sale from pulled pork sandwiches, brats and burgers, and Mexican food, to snow cones, lemonade and funnel cake.
All Proceeds from the event are donated to local charities. In 2016, the show raised $2,500, and in 2017 it raised $3,500, Roy said.
“I anticipate over $5,000 this year,” he said.
About 15 volunteers organize the event each year, Roy said, meeting once a month at Auto World, one of a couple hundred sponsors.
“We have good volunteers and really, really good sponsors,” he said. “That’s the key right there.”
As for Bettis, he’ll be driving a street rod that he bought from a friend in Hays three weeks ago.
“I have a 1941 Ford with a new V-8 and automatic transmission and air conditioning,” he said. He’s vowed he'll stick with the Ford and won’t be buying any more cruise cars.
“I keep saying this is my last one, but we’ll see,” he said. “I started when I was about 14 buying cars and fixing them up and selling them. It’s just a habit.”
CORRECTION: The original version of this artcile contained incorrect information. All proceeds from the show are donated to charity. Also, attendees vote only for their favorite, which results in the People’s Choice Award. The HDN apologizes for the error.