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Vintage vehicles bring the vroom

Classic cars abound as The Great Race rolled into Detroit Lakes' Peoples Park on Saturday

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The Wandering Troubadours of Finland pass through the stage finish line in their 1918 American La France Speedster during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — The hills were alive with the "vrooms" of vintage vehicles in Detroit Lakes' Peoples Park on Saturday, June 25.

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A vintage vehicle passes through the stage finishing line during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

One hundred and twenty vintage vehicles, to be more precise. That's how many competitors in the 2022 Hemmings Motor News Great Race made it to the next-to-last stop in the 2,300-mile, cross-country competition.

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Deb Leslie, of Kindred, N.D., shows off her 1954 Chevrolet Corvette during a classic car show before the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"We started with 132 (vehicles)," said Great Race Director Jeff Stumb on Saturday. "We have 120 today."

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A vintage vehicle passes through the stage finishing line during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

About half of the race dropouts occurred in Ohio, he added, when road temperatures soared above 100 degrees.

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A driver of a vintage car makes a hand gesture after passing through the stage finishing line during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"We've only lost one or two in the last 4-5 days though," he added, noting that race weather conditions had been "all across the board" during the race's nine-day run, which ended in Fargo, N.D., on Sunday. "The first 3-4 days were rainy and cold, then it got into the triple digits ... yesterday (Friday), coming into Duluth it was 92, but it dropped to 62 when we got to the lake.

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A vintage vehicle passes through the stage finish line during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"I don't think it could have gone any better," he continued. "You deal with the weather — that's just part of it (the race)."

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A vintage compact vehicle passes through the stage finishing line during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Saturday's temperatures in Peoples Park fluctuated a bit, with the wind and intermittent clouds bringing a mild chill to the air at times.

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A vintage vehicle passes through the stage finishing line during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

For a couple of hours prior to the racers' arrival, two local car clubs — Midnight Cruisers and the 412 Lakes Chapter of Antique Automobile Clubs of America (AACA) — filled the parking lot at Peoples Park with dozens of antique automobiles of their own.

"I think the cold might have hurt us a little bit, but we were very happy with the number of spectators that came out, for both the car show and the race," said Tom Seelye of Detroit Lakes' Breakfast Rotary Club, which was largely responsible for bringing the racers to Peoples Park for their penultimate stopover.

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Wayne Taylor, of Detroit Lakes, chats with an event volunteer as he pulled into a classic car show with his 1965 Chevrolet Corvette before racers arrived for their last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Though sales in the Rotary-sponsored beer garden might not have been as brisk as they could have been in hotter temperatures, Seelye said that fundraising was not the focus of the day's festivities.

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Spectators check out a variety of classic cars before racers arrive for the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"We felt like this was a community service project where we could really highlight Detroit Lakes, or maybe showcase is a better word," he said.

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Deb Leslie, of Kindred, N.D., shows off her 1954 Chevrolet Corvette during a classic car show before the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Stumb had nothing but praise for the local Rotarians, and Detroit Lakes as a whole, noting that this wasn't his first visit to the community.

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A vintage vehicle passes through the stage finish line during the last overnight stop of The Great Race, a race of antique cars from Rhode Island to North Dakota, at People's Park in Detroit Lakes on June 25, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"The Rotary Club and Tom Seelye have just been tremendous," he said. "They've done a great job for us."

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Chris Brungardt, left, and Jay Reinan, the Great Race team known as "The Wandering Troubadours of Finland," stand next to their 1918 American La France Speedster at Peoples Park in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, June 25, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

'Wandering Troubadours of Finland' leave lasting impression

One of the "fan favorites" at Saturday's race was a team with local ties. Jerome "Jay" Reinan and Chris Brungardt, who dubbed their team "The Wandering Troubadours of Finland," both have cabins on Lake Lida, and Stumb said they had the honor of coming into the park first on Saturday because Detroit Lakes was their "hometown stop."

The team made the most of it, as their support crew of about a dozen friends and family — who made the trip riding behind them in a school bus — marched alongside the vehicle in unison, wearing matching fezzes and coveralls and carrying Finnish flags.

The car they were driving was just as unique: A 1918 American La France Speedster that had been rebuilt from a La France fire truck.

"It has wood wheels, a chain drive and rear brakes only," said Reinan, noting that it was the "most primitive" of the five different vehicles they have competed with in The Great Race over the past nine years.

Not only does the vehicle have brakes on the rear end only, "They're mechanical brakes, not hydraulic," Brungardt said. "It's an adventure driving down the street with it," he joked.

Reinan's sister, Beth VanderLinden, who lives in Moorhead, came to Peoples Park on Saturday, and said she planned to ride in the support bus for the final leg of the trip.

"Their support team has to fix the car every night," she said, noting that both Reinan and Brungardt (who is her cousin) wore tall rubber boots to protect themselves from the heat of the engine as well as any rocks being kicked up from the road surface.

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Despite getting the honor of crossing the finish line into Peoples Park first on Saturday, VanderLinden said the Wandering Troubadours weren't expected to win the race — and they didn't.

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The Great Race competitor Josh Hull, of Roanoke, Va., stands proudly next to his 1932 Ford Speedster at Peoples Park in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, June, 25, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

That honor went to Josh Hull and Trevor Stahl, who drove a 1932 Ford Speedster. The red, white and blue vehicle drew many an admiring comment on Saturday.

Hull, who hails from Roanoke, Va., said he was competing in The Great Race for the seventh time.

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Great Race team Josh Hull and his partner, Trevor Stahl, won the cross country racing competition for antique cars, which ended Sunday in Fargo, N.D., after traversing 2,300 miles from Warwick, Rhode Island. They were competing with a 1932 Ford Speedster in the expert racing category.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"I got into it for the love of cars," he said of his racing hobby. "It's a passion."

Hull said that he enjoys meeting young racing fans and helping to educate them about antique cars and car culture. "This is a 90-year-old car," he said, "and it can pretty much stay on the road forever."

La France fire truck draws a crowd

The local car clubs weren't the only ones who brought out their antique vehicles to show them off on Saturday: Greg Smedsrud brought his 1915 American La France fire truck up from Battle Lake and parked it near the entrance to Peoples Park, drawing lots of attention.

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Greg Smedsrud, Battle Lake, shows off his 1915 American La France fire truck outside Peoples Park in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, June 25, 2022.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It's originally from Perry, Iowa, and it was purchased in 1972 by the Martinson family," he said. "It's been resting in Dalton, Minnesota for the last 50 years."

Smedsrud added that he first met Jay Reinan about four years ago, when he brought his La France Speedster to a car show in Fergus Falls, which is where Reinan is from originally.

"Jay and Chris (Brungardt) are both locals," he said, adding that he decided to bring the fire truck to Detroit Lakes for Saturday's Great Race stop in support of the local racing team.

"American La France made about 20 of these Speedsters like Jay has, " he said. "They were called the chiefs' (i.e., fire chiefs) cars."

For a look back at Saturday's race stop in Detroit Lakes, take a look at our Facebook live stream of the event.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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