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Car run offers a glimpse into another time

The car run tries to stay off main highways and roads during the event, as most cars are traveling around 20 mph. (Submitted)

NEW LONDON - If you spend some time outside in central Minnesota next week, you might think you've been transported back in time.

Pre-1920's steam-engine cars, motorcycles and single-cylinder cars will all be cruising around, touring different areas, in preparation for a 120-mile pilgrimage from New London to New Brighton on Aug. 13.

Drivers from all over the continent and Canada gather in New London each year to team up for the jaunt across the state in their antique vehicles.

Any car made made in or before 1908 is eligible to participate and one- or two-cylinder vehicles made prior to 1916 are also eligible.

Modeled after a similar car run from London to Brighton in England, the original event saw 17 drivers come together as a part of New Brighton's centennial ride in 1987. Participation has ballooned since then.

"We find that people just tend to come back," said Mike Maloney, board president for the Antique Car Run. The group does advertise in a couple of publications, but most participants have continued to return each year, while telling others about the event.

This year, more than 70 drivers are expected for the cruise through the state with thousands of spectators trying to sneak a peek at the vehicles.

Maloney, who drives a 1906 REO, said people typically set up picnics along the route and wave at the honking cars as they go by.

Since there isn't any official spectator portion for viewers to come check out the cars, he said the drive-by interaction helps fill that gap.

But Ed Walhof, who helped coordinate all of the events leading up to the final drive, was less bashful about the driver's reception in the towns the travel through.

"Bridges are lined with people," he said. "It's the largest spectator event in the world."

Nevertheless, the event isn't completely stress-free.

Although it isn't a race, many things can happen to the old time cars before they are able to cross the finish line in New Brighton. About 90 percent of the cars complete the run nowadays, Walhof said, but that was not originally the case. If a car does break down, the crew has volunteers that can tow the cars to the destination.

Maloney said after driving together so many years, the participants have become close friends. If they see another car stopped on the side of the road, it is common to stop and try to help that driver get their car running again.

Judy Goepel, secretary of the board, said Fords are the most common type of car seen at the event, with about 16 of them currently signed up.

The importance of the run to past and future participants shouldn't be understanded, she said, with drivers passing along the torch to younger generations of the family. "It has become a bucket list type of event."

Schedule of events

Tuesday, August 9 - “Got Milk?”

This 46-mile tour starts mid-morning and makes its way to lunch at The Oaks at Eagle Creek Country Club in Willmar. After lunch, the tour heads to Meadow Star Dairy southwest of Pennock. The dairy’s 9,500 cows make it the largest dairy operation in Kandiyohi County. The 22-acre barn is 1,400 feet by 608 feet under one solid roof. You’ll watch a 106 cow milking carousel before heading back to New London.

Wednesday - “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!”

We added a tour really worthy of our 30th Anniversary with this one. It’s longer than normal but surely won’t disappoint. The 78-mile tour takes you to Bob Lange’s Animal Mounts Museum at his estate between Benson and Glenwood. It is a comprehensive collection of animals from Africa and North America, along with an impressive firearms collection. Lunch will be served at the estate. Antique cars are preferred, but because of the distance of this tour, modern vehicles are permitted. The evening dinner will feature the ever-popular Minnesota shore dinner of walleye at Neer Park back in New London.

Thursday - Minnesota Family Farming 101

You’ll learn about family farming on this 43-mile morning tour. The tour takes you to the 6000 acre Rosenquist Farms in Atwater. Owner Frans Rosenquist will discuss the farming industry, irrigation and water supply. You’ll see lots of farm equipment and learn about hobby tractor pulls (a modified tractor pulling competition). Lunch will be served on the site. Evening dinner at Peace Lutheran Church in New London will provide you with a “meet, greet & eat” opportunity with the volunteer tow drivers.

Aug. 12 - Around the Lakes & Root Beer Floats

The traditional Pre-Run Get Ready Day starts with brunch at the New London Legion. The drivers and guests will have a chance to have their questions answered during the drivers’ meeting. Then, the veteran cars are off on a 36-mile warm-up tour around Nest and Green lakes. Root beer floats will be offered at Saulsbury Beach in Spicer on the way back. Once back in New London, drivers are invited to gather at Glen Oaks Nursing Home a half hour before the antique car parade down Main Street at 5:30 pm. Glen Oaks is the starting point for the parade and their residents enjoy a glimpse of the past looking at the old cars line up. A community chicken and rib buffet will be offered at the Legion following the parade before drivers head home to prepare for the early morning start.

Aug. 13 - The 30th Anniversary Grand Tour

The starting line will be buzzing at 7 a.m. when the first car will hear the starting gun outside the Peace Lutheran Church in New London, the oldest and slowest starting first. Antique autos and costumed drivers will continue to leave on their 120-mile trek until 8 a.m. After hospitality stops at Grove City, Litchfield, Kingston, Buffalo and Crystal, they’ll head to the finish line in New Brighton at 3 pm.

New Brighton will welcome the travelers and cars at the Long Lake Regional Park, site of the City’s Stockyard Days festival. An awards ceremony with presentation of the medallions, awards and storytelling follows. For the late nighters, a fireworks finale finishes the day.

Aug. 14 - Cars & Parts

The Long Lake Regional Park will be the site of the 30th annual New Brighton Car Show and Swap Meet, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Food, live entertainment, a craft show, etc., will be part of the continuing Stockyard Days celebration.

For further information visit