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Last updated: Sun. Jul. 27, 2014 - 01:30 am EDT

Muddy River Run ends 40 years of showing street rods

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The run is over for the Muddy River Run.

The annual vintage car show had its final event Saturday in an IPFW parking lot, ending a summer tradition that began when many of the cars on display cruised America’s streets.

“Everything has to end,” Fort Wayne Street Rod committee chairman Jeff McCracken said with sad resignation. “People are going to go away saying, ‘Boy, that was a great show. Wish they could have kept it going because it was so much fun.’ ”

With oldies music blasting across the asphalt from a radio station’s 4-foot speakers, an estimated 500 cars rolled into the university’s parking lots. Proud car owners buffed and polished fenders and roofs, raised the hood to show off the chrome-plated engines, found shade from trees or canopies, then sat in their canvas folding chairs and watched others ogle their machines.

“Heartbroken,” said Rich Rumpel, 60, who brought his 1969 Z-28 Chevy Camaro. “Over the years we’ve come to almost every one of them since the beginning. I hate to see it break up. I’d like to see the younger generation take part. They’re into video games. They don’t want to spend the time to help. The older people can’t get around as well. They’re getting close to 70 years old. You need the young people to help do a lot of the leg work.”

McCracken, 68, said he and his small committee maintained the responsibility of keeping the Muddy River Run alive for several years and hoped that other club members would come forth. None did.

“I won’t say it’s dying, but in this area, we just don’t have as much interest in the street rods as it used to be in the days past,” said McCracken, whose event began in 1975. “So our club’s getting older. They decided that they can’t physically do it. It’s a lot of physical work, as well as a lot of long hours of preparation.”

The event reached its popularity peak in 1996 when 1,147 cars were displayed over a two-day show. Because it outgrew its space at IPFW, the Muddy River Run moved to the Allen County Fairgrounds. Only recently did it return to IPFW.

“I come here every year,” said Tom Tucker, 64, who said he hates it that the show will be no more. “I can’t tell you how many I’ve been to this. I’ve brought cars here. I’ve bought cars here. I’ve sold cars here. I love it. I’m really disappointed they’re going to stop it.”

McCracken doesn’t anticipate other club members saving the show by taking over. And he’s rejected offers for outside groups to assume responsibility.

“We’ve had a couple promoters come to me and ask can we take it over for you?” McCracken said. “No. This belongs to the club, and we present it the way we want to present it. I’m afraid if we give it to someone else to use our name and present it, if it doesn’t turn out good, then we’re going to end up with a bad name.

“This crowd is not going to say ‘I wish I would’ve stepped up.’ They’re not going to say anything. Let’s just say it’s a shame. It’s a shame we couldn’t keep it going.”

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