A few weeks ago, I visited Dave Geisler out in Murdo, whose Pioneer Auto Show I consider a phenomenon particularly attune to the South Dakota way of life. There’s something about living under our vast prairie skies that brings out the exceptional side of human nature. Dave’s roadside attraction of 42 buildings filled with remarkable automobiles, motorcycles, tractors and every sort of collectible from old typewriters, to corncob pipes, to lunch boxes and more is a tribute to a side of the American character that has lost some ground over the past several decades. I’m talking about the old-fashioned individualism that allowed for the eccentric, curious, odd, peculiar, singular and offbeat.
In Dave’s case, a more apt label might be “car-centric.” One of the more unusual items in Dave’s collection is the 20th Century Unlimited wood car on display not far from the entrance to the Auto Show. The car was glued together (with five gallons of Elmer’s Exterior Glue) by Jerry Nickel of Apache Junction, Ariz. The labor of love took 41/2 years, during which Jerry assembled and glued 4,183 individual pieces of mahogany, 64 pieces of oak and 312 pieces of other wood. Proof that there is at least one “car-centric” individual living in Apache Junction.
Another “car-centric” individual lives in Hermosa, and – believe it or not – he has the wooden car to prove it. I met Doug Hewitt this past weekend at the annual Counts Car Club Car Show in Rapid City. He built his wooden car mostly out of cottonwood, with a little walnut trim. The frame is a 1920 Jaguar Speedster, with a conspicuous brass grill that he fashioned from some other piece of salvaged automobilia. According to Doug, it took only about 3-1/2 months to put his new ride together, and he drives it regularly. The huge chunks of cottonwood were freebies salvaged from the City of Rapid City, and he chain-sawed, power-sawed, sanded and varnished the chunks down to fashion his one-of-a-kind automobile.
Building, beautifying and babying automobiles is a hugely popular pastime for thousands of folks across the nation. Here’s the schedule for car-loving vacationers who find themselves in western South Dakota, beginning with Murdo in May, hosted each year by South Dakota’s most notable car-centric, Pioneer Auto Show’s Dave Geisler:
May 10-12: Murdo in May at the Pioneer Auto Show: This annual event attracts hundreds of enthusiasts to its mega antique auction of furniture, collectibles and classic signs. Automobiles are on the block, too, with a swap meet and car corral. And there is a downtown parade and live music for everyone’s entertainment. 605-669-2691, www.pioneerautoshow.com
May 24-26: Dakota Spring Fling, Central States Fairgrounds, Rapid City. 1980s & older classics, hot rods, rat rods, custom cars, muscle cars & pickups. Vendor booths, public show & shine, indoor swap meet. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $2 or 2 cans of food. 605-399-9679.
June 1-2: Back to the Past Car Show, Gillette, Wyo. All cars & trucks with show, awards ceremony, displays & enclosed trailer raffle. Tickets: $5 adults, kids free. 307-680-9511.
June 14-15: 26th annual Center of the Nation All-Car Rally, Belle Fourche. Show & shine, vendors, live music, demos, block party, demos & more in Herrmann Park. 605-892-5980; www.allcarrally.com
June 27-30: Sturgis Camaro Rally in downtown Sturgis. Thursday is the Poker Run & 6 p.m. mixer. Friday includes autocross, poker run, pub crawl and 9 p.m. street dance. Saturday is show & shine, poker walk, auto show, Bondurant school, Loud Pipes Contest, parade and drag races. Sunday is autocross, social & banquet. 406-891-1372; www.SturgisCamaroRally.com
June 29: Whitewood Cruisin’, Hale Hall in Whitewood. Games, food, prizes scheduled from noon to 5 p.m., but no judging. “If you love it, bring it!” Includes Wild Bill Decker’s “Thunderstruck” jet dragster and “mini Indy” cars designed by SDSM&T students. 605-269-2168.
July 10-12: Black Hills Rod Run, Hill City. Show & shine, poker run, parade and more based in Hill City’s Memorial Park. 605-342-8775; www.hillcitysd.com
July 19-20: 42nd annual Black Hills Corvette Classic, Spearfish. Touring, 1880 Train ride, autocross, style show, seminars, poker run, Spearfish Canyon Cruise, Vette Street USA, Deadwood casino crawl, banquet, drag races, entertainment and more. 605-759-4530; www.blackhillscorvetteclassic.com
July 20: Mustang & Ford Club of the Black Hills Car Show, Rapid City. Held in conjunction with the Heritage Festival at Wilson Park. Show & judging 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. www.rapidmustangford.org
July 22-27: Northern Lights Impala Assoc. Convention, Spearfish. Impala enthusiasts will gather at Holiday Inn Spearfish, with tours, shows, vendors and more. www.facebook.com/NorthernLightsImpalaAssociation
Aug. 17: 10th annual Devils Tower Car Show: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Devils Tower KOA Campground just outside the Park entrance. Cars, trucks & teen division (open to ages 13-19 who work on their vehicles). Door prizes, awards and auction. Contact: 307-756-9526; www.texastrailcruisers.com
August 22-25: Kool Deadwood Nites, Deadwood. Car lovers enjoy four days full of classic cars and music, with a sock hop, parades, show & shines, competition and free concerts featuring nationally-known rock n’ rollers. www.deadwood.org
Aug. 28-Sept. 1: 7th annual Sturgis Mustang Rally, downtown Sturgis: Autocross, drag racing, show & shine, poker run, parade, dice roll, Mustang rodeo & barrel racing, entertainment, Launch Box competition & more. www.SturgisMustangRally.com
I’m sure there are some more car-centric events around the region. If you have one, e-mail email@example.com and it will be posted on our calendar of events.