As many as 25,000 people are expected to either drive or ogle some hot-looking cars this week as the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion rolls into Bowling Green for the 10th year, bringing with it dollars for area businesses.The racing, swap meets and other activities are happening at Beech Bend, but the cars will be on display at 6 p.m. today at the Sloan Convention Center after a ribbon-cutting.“After a day of racing, we really wanted to kick it off right,” said Monique Valadez, a spokeswoman for the reunion.A reception that is free to the public will showcase foods from area restaurants, including Lost River Pizza, which will be making pizzas on-site, Valadez said. There also will be numerous raffle prizes.The reception is sponsored by Heacock Classic Insurance in honor of the event’s 10th anniversary.The reunion opens at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday with time trials, qualifying sessions, elimination runs and award presentations.
Tom Hoover, Jack Ditmars, Jack Moss, Bennie Osborn, Jere Stahl and Bill Stebbins will be honored at this year’s event.The honorees will be present at two meet-and-greet autograph sessions – at the honoree reception at 6 p.m. today at the Sloan Convention Center and Friday night at the Dynamat Dynamic Legends tent.The cars will be on display again Friday evening.“We really hope that a lot of people come out and let them know how much we appreciate them being here,” said Vicki Fitch, executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.About 2,000 cars are expected for the anniversary event. All but one of the reunions – the one in 2007 – have been in Bowling Green. The event returned to Bowling Green after traffic-related issues and a dispute over one of the park’s entrances were mostly resolved.At the time, hoteliers and restaurant owners voiced support for getting the issues resolved because they benefited greatly from the event.Each of those 2,000 cars often brings two or more people who stay in area motels and eat in restaurants.“Every year hotels are full and restaurants are jam-packed with hot rods,” Valadez said.Wendy Kublin, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn across from the convention center, said her hotel is booked up.“Some of the participants start(ed) coming in Wednesday,” she said.Valadez said the event brings in participants and fans from all over North America.Fitch said she knows there were several participants who arrived Monday.“They make a week of it,” she said.Valadez confirmed that Beech Bend had trailers lined up Monday waiting to get in.It’s those extra days that competitors spend outside the event that help spread more revenue around town.When the event itself is going on, participants and spectators are focused in on Beech Bend. But even money spent there benefits the community through various tax revenues.Admission to Beech Bend Raceway for the event is $25, with children under 15 free.
By ROBYN L. MINORThe Daily News, Bowling Green