The open road can be a Siren, calling poets and dreamers to endless journeys with little purpose. But this Friday through Sunday, the winding asphalts of Bennington County will be magnets for peeling rubber, chrome and muscle, as the tri-state region plays host to one of its largest automotive attractions, the 46th Annual Bennington Car Show.
JoAnn Erenhouse, executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, said her town welcomes the event, one that has gone through many changes and transformation in its nearly half-century.
"The long standing endurance of this event shows that it has withstood the test of time," Erenhouse said right after exiting a planning meeting for the show. "The amount of participants and contestants and exhibitors it draws from a wide geographic region is a boon for both regional car enthusiasts, and of course, the local economy."
This year’s show will return to its original venues at Willow Park, after taking a hiatus for several years at the former Pownal race track, and improvements will facilitate a host of comprehensive activities, she said.
"The Town of Bennington has generously made even more improvements to the sports fields to exhibit antique and retro vehicles," Erenhouse said. "The access drive is now paved. An improved layout will allow vendors and vehicles to share the huge main field and eliminate hiking all over the park.
These improvements, and others, according to Erenhouse, will enhance the overall visitor experience. A lager food court will now overlook the field and have views of the surrounding mountains.
Michele Hogan, the show’s coordinator of entertainment, said there will be a full slate of live music for both Saturday and Sunday, covering a wide variety of musical genres.
"Live music will be adjacent to the food pavilion for everyone’s enjoyment," Hogan said. "In the past, field announcements often were distracted by the music volume, and dining visitors couldn’t hear each other. We’ve solved both problems to enhance the public’s experience at the show."
Family and cars
Preliminary events will take place on Thursday and Friday, prior to the opening of the main car show. These include registration beginning at noon on Thursday, and a variety of activities on Friday limited to vendors and car owners. Then, at 8 a.m. on Saturday, the full show opens to the public and runs through 5 p.m. Sunday.
Lindy Lynch, president of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, said family activities are reaching their peak this year, but cars - many of them - is still the focus.
"We’ll have children’s events on the playground, face painting, a hay maze, and much more," Lynch said. "But the cars are still the main attractions, and car owners come from hundreds of miles away to show off their rides with the best of them."
Lynch said that hundreds of cars enter the show to be judged, and this year they will be spread over 42 different classifications. Most are broken down by a range of years and brand of cars. Other categories distinguish by type and country of manufacture.
"There are also truck classifications, street rods, stock cars, replicas, and a category for motorcycles, too," she said. "Most classifications give awards for first and second place, and of course among other recognition there will be the favorite Best of Show, Best Original, and Popular Choice."
Lynch said there will also be a full-fledged tractor pull on both Saturday and Sunday, which has been a perennial crowd favorite.
One of the weekend’s attractions won’t take place at Willow Park, either.
The Better Bennington Corporation, the town’s downtown development organization and an active player in the car show, will sponsor the Downtown Cruise-In, starting at 5 p.m. BBC executive director John Shannahan said the event might be the most popular segment each year it has been held.
"The Cruise-In involves some of the finest classic cars in the show parading through certain street of downtown Bennington," Shannahan said. "It gives the entire community a chance to take advantage of live music, restaurant specials, and an automotive spectacle rivaling car shows anywhere. It’s also great fun, which is what this weekend is all about."
The car show will be complete with a central information tent, and a daily pass is $8, $15 for the entire weekend.
Erenhouse concluded that with the return to its old haunts at Willow Park, this year’s show promises to be one of the best attended in recent memory.
"Returning to our original home at Willow Park will not only make for a more efficiently run event, it will also draw back many visitors and car owners who might have hesitated to come when we moved to the Pownal track," she said. "We are back home now, and can’t wait to hear the roar of classic engines heading that way, too."
The 46th Annual Bennington Car Show take place this Friday through Sunday at Willow Park in Bennington Vt. Info: call 802-447-3311, or visit: www.benningtoncarshow.com.