Each October, for over four decades, the small town of Owensville, OH has been engulfed by a sea of classic and collector cars (Photo 1). For the 43rd Annual Pumpkin Run Nationals, 2,573 automobiles, all from 1974 or earlier, covered the Clermont County Fairgrounds as a sort of last hurrah for the region’s car show season. While the cars and trucks were on display for all to admire, there was something more amazing that wasn’t so openly visible.

The Pumpkin Run is sponsored by the Fastiques Rod and Custom Club and is used to raise money for various charities, primarily the Shriner’s Hospital of Cincinnati. Over the years the club has been able to donate over $1.1 million to the hospital. While the Shriner’s Hospital is the primary beneficiary there are various others who receive donations, particularly the Earth Angel Foundation.

“All of it’s to help kids. Whatever we do it’s for the kids.” With one exception. They send veterans on the tour to D.C.

“All of our profits go to charity. We give it out every year. We only keep enough to put the show on the following year,” says Frank Witt, president of the Fastiques.

Witt pointed out that it is quite a challenge to get a show that draws over 2500 vehicles together.

“There are lots of little things such as trash pickup, electric throughout, checking people in, working the gates, lining up all of the auction items, making sure the booths for the vendors are set and available,” he says, adding that they have to order the windshield cards, the t-shirts with the right number of the right sizes and so much more. One of the biggest parts is buying and fixing up a give-away car every year as part of the raffle.

“It’s a yearlong battle,” he adds. “A year sounds like a long time until you break it down to 12 months. And it’s really only 11 because one month is when we do the show.”

The show started along with the club and has grown to the point where on good years the fairgrounds are packed. “Before we opened the gates on Friday morning we had over 2000 cars preregistered,” says Doug Schmees, vice-president of the club. “That’s a pretty good start,” he added with a chuckle.

Good weather that featured clear skies and was unseasonably warm contributed to the large turnout but that isn’t always the case. “We’ve had everything from dust to mud,” says Schmees, adding that there are some years that people are walking around in heavy winter coats.

While the Pumpkin Run is set in Clermont County it draws not only from the region but from all over North America. “I think this year we have 13 cars that come out of Canada. So we get them from all over, not just locally,” says Witt.

“We had one guy who drove a ’44 coupe all the way from California. He took vacation and drove to the show,” says Witt. This year there were also cars from as far away as Maine and Colorado. (Photo 2)

The Pumpkin Run, like the sponsor club, is a family event. In addition to the vast number of diverse cars on display there were activities for adults and kids alike. Ranging from costume and dance contests for the kids to a wide selection of vendors, an auction, a swap meet and a car corral along with numerous food booths all had people’s attention when they weren’t admiring the cars. (Photo 3)

Vendors carried anything imaginable that was car related. And then some. (Photo 4) In fact, many of the largest firms that cater to the old car hobby were on hand. “I was actually a member when the club started,” says Danny Mink, proprietor of Danny’s Speed Shop. “I was in the club for years and as we got our business it just kind of meshed with it and we started helping them and showing up as a vendor.”

What Mink and his company helped with was the biggest prize to be raffled off each year at the Pumpkin Run, the giveaway car. “We helped with the giveaway car for 29 years,” says Mink, pointing out that the last one they did was a 1940 Willys coupe that was given away to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Pumpkin Run.

For years Danny’s Speed Shop was located in Goshen but has since moved to Somerset, KY. Not that location matters. “We’re a mail order shop for parts and accessories for just about all kinds of cars. Everything from air conditioners to disk brakes to Crate engines. And we’ll ship all over the world,” he says. Most of the business is mail order and a lot of it is drop shipping overseas. In fact, Mink said that about 30 percent of their business went to foreign countries.

Apart from the vendor area was the area for the swap meet (Photo 5) and the car corral. This is where people who are looking for particular parts are more than likely to find them.

Sprinkled throughout the fairgrounds are food booths. The booths are run by the Northeastern Lions Club which is part of an international nonprofit organization that raises money that is then funnels it back into the local community.

“The Lions Club is 100 percent nonprofit. We furnish and do the food for all of the people who show up for the Pumpkin Run,” says Ron Davis who is a member of the local Owensville based group. “Other than the cost of food, the money we raise is all donated. Much of it goes to Northeastern High School.” The students and boosters of the school could be seen working in all of the food booths.

In addition to donating to the school district, Davis says the Lions Club helps the local community in a number of ways. “The club helps people who have fallen on hard times,” says Davis, pointing out that they have gotten eyeglasses for a lot of needy children. He added one example of how they have helped victims of fires get back on their feet.

“Last year for the Pumpkin Run we had about $40,000 we were able to turn back to the community above and beyond what we donated to the school,” he says.

It isn’t traditional charitable organizations who donate their time and energy to make the Pumpkin Run work. Frank pointed out that each year the Fantastiques, which has 60 member families, requires at least 100 volunteers doing everything from working the gates to selling t-shirts to make the show a success.

Randy Price has been coming to the Pumpkin Run for 35 years and for the past several has become a volunteer. “There are various jobs that have to be performed throughout the event. They don’t have enough club members to fulfill all of those,” says Price. “Some of the jobs consist of working the admission gates, helping out with the t-shirt sales, traffic control, various duties throughout the event.”

For this year’s Pumpkin Run Randy had volunteered to work on Sunday morning, providing free coffee and donuts to the various people who brought their cars to the show.

In addition to being a volunteer, Randy brought one of his cars, a 1969 Chevelle SS 396 (Photo 6). He pointed out that he is also a long time member of Cincy Street Rods. “The club’s been around for 49 years and I’ve been a member for the past 30,” he said. The club puts together several events each year, all designed to raise money for charity.

Cincy Street Rods wasn’t the only other club to show up for the Pumpkin Run. In fact there were numerous car clubs grouped together throughout the fairgrounds. One of the largest and most visible was the Ohio Valley Chapter of the Falcon Club of America.

According to president John Howard (who is also Northeast Regional Director of the Falcon Club of America), there are about 60 members of the local chapter and each year they have between 30 and 50 members show up in what is dubbed “Falcon Way” (Photo 7).

“We do our own little show inside of here. We give our own awards out, we have our own door prizes. Everything we do is kind of separate but we’re still part of the Pumpkin Run. We’re sort of a show within a show,” says Howard.

Falcon Way is a sort of off shoot from an idea that was born many years ago to utilize the infield of the fairgrounds as a way to group different makes of cars together. Initially some of the officers in the club who were fans of Ford, began to organize those cars together in one portion of the infield. Soon, the other major manufacturers began grouping together as well. Now there are three “countries” that have been established (Photo 8). Each of the three “countries,” Ford, Chevy (which includes all GM makes) and MoPar have their own show within a show. But to take part in that a person must be registered and parked in the proper area.

There are no set rules that say a person has to park their car within their “country,” according to Doug. He said that people will come in with friends and want to spend their time at the show together. So it isn’t completely uncommon to find a Chevy parked among a huge group of Dodge, Plymouth and other MoPar offerings.

“This is like a family show. There are people who only meet here once a year and it’s the only time they see each other is at this show. They come from different parts of the country and it’s like a family reunion,” says Witt.

That family atmosphere is one of the reasons why so many people keep coming out and why they often return year after year. And it is why there is evidence of the Pumpkin Run all over the place.

“I very seldom go to a show anywhere that there isn’t a Pumpkin Run shirt,” says Witt.

Each one of those shirts and every person who attends the Pumpkin Run, whether to display their car or just to admire those who do, represents money going to charity. For the past four plus decades over one million dollars has been raised and donated and if the Fastiques have anything to say about it, there will be more to come.

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