The 2015 edition of the 14th Annual East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Weekend rolled out to record breaking crowds and car show entries that surpassed all prior events! The show’s Saturday, October 17 entries exceeded the previous high by over one hundred vehicles. During the crush of early morning car show entries the actual count was lost, but later pegged at in excess of 1,500 show cars! Spectators were also well above prior events. An estimated crowd of 30,000 was easily the largest gathering of people ever in the history of Henderson, NC!
Nancy Wilson, Executive Director of the Vance County Tourism Department and Event Director noted that: “We are just amazed at this year’s turn-out of cars and spectators. Not only did we have several hundred car show entries that were last-minute drive-ups, but the spectator count was also the best ever! Our car show event is free to the public, and the sunny, mild weather brought out more enthusiasts than we’ve ever had. When you consider that there were several key SEC college football games airing on TV, I’d say our entry and audience participation was outstanding again this year”, Ms. Wilson added.
Indeed, Saturday’s sunny, mild weather was a major coup. This was especially evident considering that Friday’s annual Barbeque Cookout had a drippy, overcast afternoon that still attracted 50+ cars that made the drive to Satterwhite Point Park, at Kerr Lake. This year attendees were treated to Carolina style, slow-smoked barbeque pork, crispy homemade fried chicken, a full assortment of trimmings plus homemade desserts. The food-fest was again held at the Satterwhite Point community center, a large, glassed-in building at scenic Kerr Lake, a short drive from Henderson. (Kerr Lake and its recreation facilities are part of the huge Kerr Lake chain that stretches from Virginia down into North Carolina. It hosts year-round activities that include swimming, boating, fishing and camping and is one of the premier outdoor spots in both NC and Virginia.)
Unfortunately, the weatherman blew a previously mild and sunny forecast that turned out to be light sprinkles and an overcast sky. However, by late afternoon the weather front moved from the area and a bright sky and sunset left everyone confident that Saturday would be perfect.
And perfect it was. Saturday morning’s sunrise dawned brilliantly sunny with cloudless blue skies and mild 60 degrees. It was typical “Nancy Weather”, so-named for the amazing run of brilliant weather that the Saturday outdoor car show each year shines on Executive Director, Nancy Wilson.
Beginning at the black-coffee hour of 5:00 am, the staging and registration area began filling with cars eager to take their spots on the streets of downtown Henderson. Enthusiast vehicles of all sorts are featured, and this included street rods, muscle cars, rat rods, antiques and of course, the featured race car section. This year’s race car grouping included a wide assortment of drag cars ranging from beautifully restored, front-engine Top Fuel Dragsters to unique nitro Funny Cars, Competition Eliminator roadsters, Gassers, and Pro Stocks. GM, Ford and Chrysler makes were well represented and sat gleaming in the sun.
Some of the more unique on hand were Jerry Baltes’ Top Fuel dragster, the Massachusetts based, Richie Broughton Comanche dragster, the Jim & Allison Lee car, “Nitro Nellie” Goins’ Funny Car, Two of Bill Jenkins’ Pro Stocks, the twin-engine Blue Angels dragster, from Massillon, Ohio, John Livingston and Ed Miller’s 426 Hemi powered Duster Pro Stockers, Ronnie Sox’s last ride, a Mercury Comet Pro/Mod racer, one of the Sox & Martin Plymouth Pro/Stock Dusters, Gene Altizer’s A/Gas ’48 Anglia, Big John Mazmanian’s A/Gas Supercharged ’40 Willys, and many, many more.
Also on hand was the annual display of Henderson’s home-grown Corbitt Trucks. Corbitt Motor Company built heavy duty trucks for commercial, government and military needs in Henderson from the early 1900’s until 1955. The company played a major role in the “Arsenal of Democracy” that provided transportation resources for The “Greatest Generation’s” World War II victory. Many examples of Corbitt vehicles were displayed, attracting a steady stream of interested enthusiasts.
Promptly at Noon a wave of high horsepower sound engulfed the streets as each race car did a fire-up, highlighted by the ground-shaking thunder of the Top Fuel dragsters’ supercharged nitro engines.
By mid-afternoon the car show judges had completed their rounds, winners from each category were announced, and trophies presented for “Best-In”. The by-then overflow crowd continued to wander among the car-lined streets, stopping often at the many street food vendor stands.
When finally the last show car had either driven away or been loaded onto its trailer, Nancy and her loyal but foot-sore legion of volunteers took a deep breath and relaxed.
“We are blessed with a great staff of volunteers who come out and help us make this happen, year after year. I am so grateful to all these folks who work so hard not only during the show but getting ready for it. That includes the city staff and officers of the Henderson Police Department. Everyone works closely together and their efforts make it possible for us to safely present this event year after year without major problems. I thank everyone who provided assistance and support to make this the great event it has become”, reflected Ms. Wilson.
Sunday morning’s 14th Annual East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame induction ceremonies brought another classic North Carolina Fall morning, crisp but sunny. Inductees from this year’s Class of 2015 were on hand early, along with many prior inductees, and many brought scrapbooks, photos and memorabilia from their racing careers. Drag racing fans were provided with the chance to meet and get autographs from the fans in the informal one-on-one setting that only this event offers.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, this year honoring the thirteen inductees, began with Host and Master of Ceremony Bret Kepner welcoming the inductees, their families, prior inductees, media and fans on hand.
The 2015 East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Inductees are:
Robert Bullard (posthumously)
Ed Kowalski (posthumously)
Frank LeSuer (posthumously)
At the close of the ceremonies, after inductee recognitions and thanks were delivered, some with great emotion, the gavel fell on the 2015, 14th Annual East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Weekend. And finally, the 2016, 15th Annual event dates were announced as October 14-15-16, 2016.