By Dave Sullivan
Recently Mary Jo and I attended the three-day Firebird festival in the St Lewis area. This story is a summary of this All-Firebird weekend. It was an outstanding event that had approximately 150 Firebirds including many Trans Am’s. There were also some very nice Formula Firebirds in attendance. The only downside to the weekend was the heat. Wow was it hot!
While the show was held in the St. Louis area Gateway Classic Cars was the primary host and each day started with a gathering of the Firebirds in their parking lot at O’Fallon Illinois. After the gathering each morning, the cars would be involved in a loosely orchestrated caravan to the next stop on a well-organized destination. With 3-4 stop & go lights before the Interstate 64 ramp the 135-145 cars would be a little scattered along the St. Louis Area Interstate highway system. A Garmin or good phone mapping system was essential or teaming up with birds that had a co-pilot or navigation expert riding shot-gun.
The interstate 55 Firebird Club did a wonderful job of outlining each destination along with great GPS friendly addresses to guide participants along on the road trip. Groups of 15-30 cars would be scattered along the route and Interstate travelers were wishing they had a classic Firebird and were traveling in our group. A many “Thumbs-Up” was the greeting that most Firebirds received.
Most every one toured the wonderful collection of “Dream Cars” At Gateway Car Museum and as the temperature rose to near 90 the air conditioning was a welcomed asset to have at our disposal. A wonderful food truck along with various other merchants and refreshments were available and well received by the growing crowd of Firebirds. It was very well attended for a first-year event. At 5 PM Mary Jo and I slipped away to a nearby restaurant for dinner with an old friend of ours that lives in the area. After dinner we rushed back to Gateway to caravan to the drive-in movie for the showing of “Smokey and the Bandit”. When we arrived, fellow Midwest Firebird Club members, Tim & Diane Klopstein had saved a 2nd row spot for us and we sat in lawn chairs with them during this classic Movie.
We had an early start on Saturday with a full schedule of events that they had organized right down to every detail. There were several “Host” hotels and while not all the accommodations were perfect, we still had a wonderful room at a very reasonable price. It was graduation weekend so the popular area restaurants were full up with lines outside. We did find a couple nice places to eat but if you plan to attend next year be aware of the new graduates and families.
The Saturday Schedule was an exciting plan and again a very warm day, that required lots of sunscreen and fluids to drink. Again, another 90-degree prediction for the St. Louis Area.
The 37 mile “Legacy Cruise” Saturday was a continually active day as we traveled via Interstate to downtown St. Louis heading west to the National Transportation Museum. A wonderful site for a car show and tours of the facility. I especially loved the ride on the Electric Trolley System and the summary of the automobiles that were built in the St. Louis area over the past years. Especially interesting was how the Corvette assembly plant escaped the city. In the 1960s I toured the Corvette assembly plant during our high school mechanics class field trip.
Pontiac had a Streetcar System, and the main car was named “Pontiac” and it was displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 before being delivered.
The National Transportation Museum was a wonderful site for a car show and tours of the facility.
After Leaving the Transportation Museum the Legacy Tour headed to the Drag Strip and NASCAR TRACK. The “nostalgic drag racing” went on till 10 PM. Our Firebirds were escorted right up into the seating and concessions area where we enjoyed good food for lunch. It was another hot day.
These guys had a wonderful time at the FirebirdFest.
With the track being back on the east side of the “Mighty Mississippi” the “Legacy Cruise” ended the day at someplace around 70 miles for the day trip. Mary Jo and I (without air conditioning) headed back to the hotel and went out and had a nice dinner. With the second day of the FirebirdFest 21 in the books Sunday was going to be another early rise and an aggressive schedule.
At 6:30 am Sunday we arrived back at the Gateway Classic Cars to adventure on to the ferry boat crossing of the “Mighty Mississippi River” also known as “The Jump”. It was a 50-mile car cruise to Grafton, Illinois with 20 miles or more along the scenic and winding river road as we passed river towns like Alton, Illinois. This would be an outstanding road trip in the fall of the year and the area is well know for its eagle watching in the winter season. With this being the 3rd and final day, many cars were absent or passed on the ferry ride. There may have been 75 or so cars on this early morning drive. Mary Jo and I enjoyed our time on the trip and being retired we were able to participate in every car cruise and the car shows that were planned for each day.
Many of the locals had done this prior so it made it easier to get the rest of us across the river and driving into the beautiful city of St. Charles Mo. Once in downtown St. Charles we were set up for Car Show # 4 at the Lewis and Clark Museum adjacent to the Missouri River. This park was another fine place to sit and visit with car enthusiast. Several of us then had lunch at a local restaurant and then headed to car show # 5 and the salute to First Responders and the closing ceremony in St. Peters which is another nice town in the area.
Several Thousand dollars were donated to non – profit fire support groups that care for families of fallen Police and Fire – Rescue Departments. They had a nice reception, and it was another car show!
About 3:30 PM many of the Firebirds headed for home and we had planned to stay 1 more night and load the car on Monday morning. So, we had plenty of time to enjoy our trip and went out for another enjoyable dinner. Wow is retirement sweet.
What an awesome story, Armando is 78 & his daughter bought him a Firebird Formula last year after trying to find his old TA. His TA had been in family weddings and when his children were small, he took all 4 of them with him on a cross county trip to visit family in Mexico. At the car show was his 2 daughters, 3 grandkids and his son in law. He was chosen to lead the cars around the NASCAR track by show organizers.
We had a wonderful time at this show and eat lunch on Monday on our way home at Motorheads south of Springfield, Illinois. Four great days. It looks like this is going to become an annual event and I look forward to attending.
Editor’s Note, we reached out to the show organizer, Rod Haffer, of the I-55 Firebird club, to let him know how wonderful of an event he put together. He told us: “We were blessed to be able to finally get this idea off the ground and so relieved it’s in the history books now as it was quite a process and months of planning during a paranoid public who weren’t all on board either. So many awesome stories and moments for sure!”
We can’t wait for the next one! Ken Pitcher
(Story and pictures by Dave Sullivan.)
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