Bruce Larson's Drag Fest 2001 -- A First Timer's Experience
By Ted Pappacena
I've been to the '66 & '68 S /S Nationals, Indy in 1973, countless Summer/Mopar Parts nationals, and followed the birth of Pro Mod on the East Coast. All have their memorable moments and all are stories in themselves. These are my "greatest hits" in drag racing so to speak. Saturday, November 10, 2001, I added another.
It was my first time to Bruce Larson's Drag Fest. To all that I met and talked to, it was obvious. The day was indescribable, but I'll try. I was psyched for this day to say the least. Dave Heisey all but ordered me to attend when I saw him at the NNL East earlier this year. "Yeah, I'll be there, just give me the date and instructions." Within the last three months, each update of what's new on the Drag List contained a plug for the Drag Fest. Attending? You bet! Friday night was unbearable; I was so wound up. I like all types of motorsports, but drag racing is and always will be number one with a bullet. What other sport allows you to mingle with the stars?
Admittedly, my attending had two goals in mind. One being to see and meet people associated with nostalgia drag racing and the related memorabilia. The other was to plug my website (www.dragracingimagery.com), and to show and sell my photos. So we (my wife and I) got up at 5:30 AM, picked up a friend, and off we went. Even with stopping for breakfast on the road, we got there from our home on Long Island before 11. The plan was for my wife to drop us off, go to Delaware to visit our daughter in college, get back around 6 or 7, pick us up, and go back home. Very easy instructions to get there I might ad.
What can one say about Bruce's Stoney Creek Barn? My basement in affectionately known as the "testosterone room" by my friends. I guess that makes Bruce's barn is the "gorilla room." Where do you look first? There is the purple flake Cobra, the Corvette, Camaro, and Olds funny cars, bodies (cars), parts (cars), trophies, models, toys, and STUFF! I was like a kid in a candy store. I found an empty table, set up my photos, and proceeded to meet and talk and gape and try to absorb for the next eight hours.
I met Bill Pratt from the Drag List first. From him came a seemingly endless list of people to meet. I saw old friends and made new instant friends. Hey, there's the whole Hemi Hunter crew! Didn't I just see Terry Cook of Hot Rod/Lead East/Scrape fame? Bill Stiles, Darwin Doll, and that guy in the red suit. That guy is none other than Bud Faubel of Honker fame.
Brian Kohlman is outside unloading a funny car from his trailer. It's probably the Belle Dodge A/FX car I saw at Atco back in September. Great, now I can get some good stills to go with the video I took. They push it out, uncover it and it's Charlie Allen's AWB A/FX Dodge. Wow, I didn't even know he had that car. I thought he started out with the Dart. What a restoration. It took a while to get my jaw back in place! Go back in, mingle, talk, and carry on, all the while trying not to get too giddy knowing you are in drag racing nirvana. Hey, the "Honker" is outside. Out I go and it's just out of the trailer. It's positioned, tires cleaned and we all rush to it as if we were magnetized. Go back in, mingle, talk, watch videos, slides, look at pictures, and keep pinching yourself that you're not imagining all this.
Then there was the "photo op." Set up the two F/Xers on the street complete with rosin, broom, and flagman with all of us as "spectators." I don't know if I was in the crowd shots, but I was snapping away with the trusty Pentax. Thank God I brought the camera; otherwise I'd be making an appointment with a shrink come Monday morning. Go back inside, meet more people, reminisce, and look at more pictures.
Not that I forgot about him, but our host Bruce Larson has to be one of the most congenial men I've ever
met. There wasn't one time that I did not see a smile on his face. You could see that he was having as much fun as we were. "Bruce, could you sign these pictures and funny car book, please?" Sure, no problem. All day!
Towards the end of my day, there was the infamous "George Ray's Drag Strip Video" that brought the place down. A no holds barred Arkansas "strip" featuring heads up racing only and twilight zone rules (?) and antics. Uh, the water goes in front of the tires! I bought a copy and I hope you were lucky to get one too. Get it, crank it up, and you'll get an adrenaline rush like no other.
At around 7:30, my wife arrived to whisk us back to Long Island. "How was it?" she asked. Hmmm, what can I say? "It was one of the best days ever!"
"Even better than our wedding day?" she asks. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm...
Thanks Bruce, Dave, Bill, Joel, Walter, Andrew, Randy, Jerry, et al.