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Mid-America Street Rod Nationals seen as part of road to recovery for Springfield area tourism

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 6:54 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

Springfield hotels and restaurants that have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic are getting a much-needed boost this weekend with the Mid-America Street Rod Nationals event going on at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds.

Springfield’s Convention and Visitors Bureau on St. Louis Street only recently opened back up to tourists after being closed during the pandemic and officials there say the Mid-America Street Rod Nationals are really the first major out-of-town draw for the city since the coronavirus shut down the tourism industry in March.

Other events including the Ozark Empire Fair and several soccer tournaments have drawn visitors but the car show, being hosted by Springfield for the 27th time, is one of the city’s signature events with over 1,100 vintage cars at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds expecting to attract over 6,000 spectators who in the past have spent over $2 million and taken up over 2,400 room nights.

“It’s kind of a breath of fresh air for our hotels and restaurants," explained CVB Director of Sales Dana Maugans in speaking to the importance of starting to get more tourism-related activities back for a sluggish industry. "Since mid-March we’ve cancelled over 88 conventions and amateur sporting events and without all of that, honestly, it’s been like a death. It’s been depressing and sad.”

Put on by the National Street Rod Association, the Mid-America show is usually held on Memorial Day weekend. The rescheduled event is one of only five NSRA events held this year, down from the usual 11.

But NSRA Marketing Director Jim Rowlett said the organization is glad to be helping local economies get a boost during these trying times.

“It’s interesting because a lot of events we’ve done this year is the first event they’ve had," he said of the NSRA’s shows in other places like Oklahoma and Kentucky. "Of course our members are great for doing what they need to do to stay safe. People are wearing masks. We have hand sanitizers available. Everybody’s doing what they can do but it’s still old car guys loving old cars.”

Wayne and Gayle Herren of Fair Grove, owners of a 1956 Chevy Bel-Air on display at the show, have been coming to the street rod nationals for most of its 27 years. They admitted to some trepidation about coming during the pandemic but pointed out that most people were following the mask mandate when they were at the indoor exhibits and that like many others here, they were tired of being stuck at home.

The number one reason they decided to attend?

“Just to get out because the only thing we did was go to the doctor," Gayle said with a laugh.

While the event is following all city and state protocols including the city ordinance requiring masks indoors, officials admit they can’t know for sure that a big event like this won’t spawn more COVID cases.

“The first event we did was in July in Oklahoma City and the first of August we were in Louisville, Kentucky and we’re not seeing anything from any of those places,” Rowlett said of the lack of major outbreaks following those shows. “But you don’t know. It’s an airborne thing that’s hard to keep track of.”

“There may not be a really correct, right answer for this whole thing," Maugans added about second-guessing the decision to go ahead with the show. “It’s a very challenging situation. The world is going to keep going on and events are going to start happening. My recommendation is if you have an underlying condition or are elderly or don’t feel comfortable going to the event, then stay home.”

The event continues through Sunday at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. Saturday hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon on Sunday.

Admission is $19.00 for adults, $6.00 for children ages 6 to 12,

Children under 6 are free when accompanied by an adult.

A $2.00 discount to active military, seniors over 60 and NSRA members (all with proper I.D.)

Tickets available at event with discount tickets also available at O’Reilly Auto Parts. Only one discount ticket offer per I.D

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