Article by Jamie Hammack
Photos by Ethan Nahté
1975 — that was the year Saturday Night Live first premiered on NBC. “Jaws” was in the theaters and disco was popular. Well, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.
But something else began in 1975 that is still going strong today — The Queen Wilhelmina Rod Run. The late Mark Campbell founded the Rod Run 48 years ago, and while Mr. Campbell and his once world-famous hot rod and street rod business, Street & Performance, are no longer with us, his legacy lives on with the event he began here in Mena.
These days the Rod Run falls under the purview of The Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce. Putting such an event on takes lots of effort and planning. Melanie Wade, executive director of the Chamber, has a small and dedicated team which work most of the year to make sure the Rod Run goes off without a hitch. Without them we would have no Rod Run. And that would mean less revenue for local businesses.
The Rod Run is a special event for car lovers. Most car shows are held in an indoor arena, convention center or a bland parking lot somewhere. Here we have a car show with upwards of 200 vehicles or more held in two beautiful locations. First, on Mena Street on Friday evening
[Street Closures] and then beginning the next morning at 2,400 feet in the sky next to the lodge atop Rich Mountain. Schedule
The Rod Run is a unique experience, and the different styles of cars, trucks and other vehicles are the true stars. Not too long ago if you went to a car show every ride there was in top notch shape. Perfect paint. An engine you could eat a meal off of. Not a speck of dirt anywhere.
That has changed and it’s for the better. And that’s thanks to the popularity of the guys from the internet and television show “Roadkill.” David Frieburger and Mike Finnegan take beaters and junk cars and get them running. None of the cars are in great shape even after they initially work on them. Their formula of taking junk cars and making them run has made “Roadkill” the most influential car program of the last decade.
So, what does this mean? What am I getting at? I’m getting at this: If you own an older vehicle it doesn’t have to be in perfect condition to be shown. Get your rusty bucket of bolts out there and let people see it! Does your classic car or truck have a few dents? Doesn’t matter. Enter it in the Rod Run. Hot Rodders love to see rides in any condition because we love talking about cars!
Now let’s take a minute to call out people who have classic cars and trucks, but do not enter them in the Rod Run. C’mon people. Some of you have multiple classics and they are never shown. I’ve even seen locals driving around town on Rod Run weekend in their classic, but not enter it. Let’s show the people who drive their cars hundreds of miles to be here that we live up to the reputation we have earned nationwide as a hot rod community. So, no matter the condition of your classic, get it out of the garage! Enter it and let’s keep the Queen Wilhelmina Rod Run going strong!
- Friday, Aug. 25, 4–10 p.m., Mena Street from Sherwood to Port Arthur, Maple Street & Janssen Avenue on each side of Mena Street and Sherwood from Mena Street to Dequeen Street will be closed. The parking lot next to Ouachita Little Theater, as well as the alleyways at American Artisans, OMG and Mike’s Home Specialties will also be closed.
- Saturday, Aug. 26, 4-11 p.m. on the opposite end of Mena Street, from Coast to Coast to Mena Fire Station No. 2; and on Martin Street, Gillham Street and Oak Street from Dequeen to Mena streets. Both Martin and Gillham streets will be blocked all the way to the alleyways.
- The parking lot and alleyway across from Mena City Hall will have cones blocking entrances.