(Main image is borrowed from Hotrod-A-Rama's website!)
What do you get when you combine temperatures north of 110 degrees, a bunch of curious locals, and a sleepy rodeo town that's a long drive to get to, no matter where you live? The answer is, surprisingly, a great time!
A few of us Estranged CC lined up at our hotel
Even if you've never been to Pendleton, Oregon, the chances are you're familiar with the name. Yes, Pendleton, the popular apparel company mostly known for their wool blankets and men's shirts, originated here. Although, you won't find anyone wearing one here in late July..
The second thing this otherwise sleepy town is known for is the Pendleton Roundup , which is a week-long celebration of Western-style living that includes things like rodeos, parades, concerts, and much more. It is an absolutely colossal event that draws on average around fifty thousand (yes, 50k) people to this otherwise quiet, working-class cowboy town. If you've never been, it is actually a blast. And an experience unlike anything you will find elsewhere.
But all of the sudden, there is a new event slowly gaining traction and eeking out its own niche in this little Northeastern Oregon town, Hotrod-a-rama.
Of course, this event isn't "new", Hotrod-a-rama was a great traditional hot rod car show that existed in the PNW from 2002-2010. This new version was being touted as "the resurrection" in its first reintroduction. (2021) And while it may be tough to recapture "the way is used to be," it doesn't feel like that's what event organizer, Dale Seaholm is trying to do, and I mean that in a good way.
Although the location and overall feel of this new iteration or Hotrod-a-rama, is vastly different than before, it is done in a brilliant way. The new venue changes the entire dynamic of the show and lends it an instant sense of romance in a way that only some "slow-paced cowboy town at dusk" can do. Just the quaintness of the town itself makes it an extremely memorable event that is family-friendly and offers a little bit for everyone.
The new Hotrod-a-rama is definitely still finding its feet, and made some changes over last year, most significantly consolidating the show into one central location at the town's Convention Center. This was a welcomed improvement in my opinion, especially given the high temps. This way when you got overheated looking at cars in the parking lot you could escape into the building to cool off. They even had some prominent cars on display inside as well. Plus, the overall caliber of the cars themselves was fantastic. Inside the building or in the parking lot, with very few exceptions, the quality of the cars in attendance was really great. Just a ton of phenomenal traditional cars to look at, the way events like this should be!
Oh, I mentioned cooling off....Yes it was hot! It was sneaking around the 110-degree mark for the entire duration of the show this year. Luckily, the historic downtown area has countless options to escape the heat.
Despite its small size, Pendleton offers a great variety of restaurants, bars, and shops to satisfy your need to cool down. And although last year felt a little like we were aliens from another planet that were dropped off to shake up their sleepy town, this year seemed much more welcoming in my opinion. I suspect the locals didn't know what to think of it all in year-one. But when the dust settled, and we all rolled out leaving no carnage in our wake, I think they kind of adopted a more accepting attitude, and it showed this year. I found everyone I encountered to be nice and very hospitable, even to a tattooed schmuck-ass-weirdo like me.
So, what will the future bring for Hotrod-a-rama? I have no clue. I see what they're trying to do with it, they want to make it a destination event. One that draws cars from not just the PNW, but all over the country. In my opinion, it deserves to be. I don't know Dale or any of the organizers personally, but I do see what they're trying to do, and I wish him/them well. Part of that is selfishness on my part, I really enjoy this event, and I want to see it succeed. And I think it will.
Again, I don't have a dog in the fight or any personal stake in the matter whatsoever, other than just wanting to be able to go to a great event, so when I say this, I mean it: If you were on the fence about checking this show out, making the drive, braving the heat, whatever: Do it. Sign up for next year and come see it for yourself. It is worth it!
Back home after a great weekend. See you next year!