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Salina show outgrows site

A field of dreams beckons this young car-lover at the 30th annual KKOA Lead Sled Spectacular in Salina last weekend. Dozens of chopped, lowered Mercurys, Buicks and other classic customs occupied Oakdale Park's grassy areas and winding avenues.
A field of dreams beckons this young car-lover at the 30th annual KKOA Lead Sled Spectacular in Salina last weekend. Dozens of chopped, lowered Mercurys, Buicks and other classic customs occupied Oakdale Park's grassy areas and winding avenues. The Wichita Eagle

SALINA — Even the most forward-looking of us tend to resist change, and that's probably natural. We worry about things that jog us out of our comfortable ruts.

That being said, the decision by Jerry Titus and the other Kustom Kemps of America planners to move this year's KKOA Lead Sled Spectacular from Salina's small, but familiar, Thomas Park to the much-larger Oakdale Park, just west of the Bicentennial Center, was right on target.

For one thing, the 1,550-plus custom cars and hot rods that showed up for last weekend's festivities might not have all fit into the original venue. (That was about a 50 percent jump in the car count, by the way. "I was flabbergasted," Titus said. Oakdale Park's winding, nicely paved streets and shaded green spaces were the perfect place for displaying so many world-class cars.

And the addition of vintage drag cars to the lineup added another entertaining element, especially for us old-timers. It was a blast to see the likes of "Kansas John Wiebe," Tom Hanna, Bennie "the Wizard" Osborn and Bob Creitz with period-perfect front-engined AA/Fuel dragsters and to hear those old war wagons fire up and cackle their ear-splitting staccato.

It had been far too long since we had seen old fuel slingshots push-started. Friday night's casual "Run What Ya Brung" drag races at the East Crawford Recreaction Area provided that opportunity for thousands of spectators who turned out for that part of the event.

How big was the event? Let's just say I ended up using all three of my cameras to try to capture some of the flavor photographically. Thanks to my brother, Stan, for capturing one moment that I missed, of John Wiebe in the cockpit of Tom Hanna's car.

And I finally got to meet Jerry Titus face-to-face and thank him for all he and his late brother, Elden, have done to keep hot rodding and custom car building alive over the past 30-some years. For two glorious days, I was back in the '60s again, and a great time it was.

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