By Pam Burke 

Classic cars return to Hi-Line


John Kelleher, file

Sandy Hammond and Jerry Wade of Plains stand by their 1933 Plymouth at the Great Northern Fairgrounds during the 2012 Rod Run.

28th Annual Bear Paw Rod Run is hosting a fleet of show cars in Havre this weekend.

Put on by the Hi-Line Cruz'n Association, the Rod Run annually brings in car enthusiasts and from all over Montana as well as neighboring states and Canada for a chance to show off their restored, customized and show vehicles of all makes, models and years.

"(It's) people that want to show their vehicles, whether they're cars or trucks or a motorcycle, whatever it is they have that they want to show," said Craig Otterstrom, one of the organizers of the event.

"They can be of any vintage," Otterstrom added. "Numerous people that are in our club have vehicles that would be antiques and ... there are members that have newer vehicles that they've fixed up and like to show off."

Some participants display antique vehicles that have been customized like with a cut-down top, air-conditioning, a radio, new running gear and other modern niceties, he said.

The Rod Run itself, which is a combination gathering and poker run, is for participants only, said Otterstrom, but a Show 'N' Shine Saturday will be open to all spectators.

Registration for the Rod Run begins Friday evening from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Great Northern Fairgrounds. Registered participants can enjoy an all-you-can-eat of taco dinner along with socializing with other car people. The registration period continues Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the fairgrounds.

The Show 'N' Shine, Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the fairgrounds, is open to everyone who wants to view the cars and talk to the owners. Also, people who want to show their vehicles at the Show 'N' Shine, but not take part in the rest of the events can do so for a $5 fee, said Otterstrom.

After the show, Rod Run participants will compete in a poker run around Havre and the surrounding area.

They will be given locations to which they must drive to pick up a card for a poker hand.

"The idea is so they could be driving around town for people to see the cars," said Otterstrom.

Spectators at the Show 'N' Shine get in free. Participation in the Rod Run is $45 for a family, $35 for single participants, $20 for an extra participant, and free to to children 12 and younger.

Awards in different categories of best vehicles, as decided by a panel of judges, and for the poker run will be handed out in a Saturday evening ceremony that includes dinner and live music by local band Blind Luck at the Activity Building at the fairgrounds beginning at 6 p.m. The Rod Run wraps up with a continental breakfast Sunday morning.

The awards are handmade especially for the Rod Run, said Otterstrom, adding that each year the trophies are focused on a theme and this year's is a car horn mounted on a pedestal with other artistic embellishments.

"They're a little different," he said. "We feel it's nicer to have a homemade touch."

Car enthusiasts put in a lot of time and effort to restore and fix up their vehicles, he said, and most of them have more than one project in the works and or finished.

The first year he went to the Rod Run, Otterstrom said, he had several projects, but only one in good enough shape to take. It was a Ford Falcon that had gotten as far as having the body primered, but he had to sit on a bucket to drive it to the show.

"I remember standing by it and a woman asked if it was going to be in a demo derby," he said, laughing, then added that the car showed how these vehicles are "stripped down to nothing and brought back to life bit by bit."

She could hardly believe that one day it would be a show piece like the others in the future, he said.

Many of the participants come back from year to year, Otterstom said, and most of them bring different vehicles each time for the opportunity to show them all and see their compatriots again.

"We try to get people coming in and having a good time," he said, "then come back and bring their friends."


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