Syracuse Nationals return to State Fairgrounds

Nationals fans walk the Fairgrounds Friday afternoon / photo: John Evenson

The Syracuse Nationals will continue into Friday Night.

The New York State Fairgrounds Grandstand feature old school dragsters, a truck tug-a-war and flame throwing cars. The whole night will end with fireworks, a well deserved finale to what organizers say was the busiest Friday at the Nationals in 12 years. Eight thousand vintage cars are expected through the Fairgrounds by the end of the weekend, and everybody seems to have their own favorites.

"It's actually a kinetic work-of-art," says Dick Urban who tavelled in from Connecticut, "it's something you can look at like a fine painting and you can go out and have some fun with."

"The older cars have, you know, their own personality to them," added Auburn's Al Giacona, "you know, they're a little bit more crude than a new car".

But you do not have to be a car lover to have a great time at the Syracuse Nationals. Some of the cast of Happy Days was on hand today and will be back tomorrow to shake hands and sign autographs, including Henry Winkler who played "the Fonz". Winkler admits he's not a car enthusiast, but that he certainly appreciates what he sees out here.

"I am not a car person, " said Winkler on Friday, "I've never been able to do anything with cars...I put my key in - I pray it starts. But I am amazed by all the artwork that is around here."

The Syracuse Nationals will be open from 8 to 12 O'Clock on Saturday night, and once again Sunday from 8 to 3 PM.

Syracuse Nationals public relations director Bob McLean says he expects this year's event to draw cars from 40 states and Canada, and says this could be the largest show in the history of the event. Last year's show drew more than 80,000 visitors.

It TMs a little bit busier than any Friday I TMve ever seen. We had to open the gates at 5:15 a.m. Usually we have to open at 6:00 a.m. but they were backed up onto the highway, so for safety purposes, we let them in, and I knew that was a harbinger of good things. We really got a big crowd here today. Tomorrow should be even better!" said McLean.

The event is good news for the local hospitality industry in the area, filling hotel rooms, restaurants and shopping malls with out of town visitors. The Nationals fill the entire Fairgrounds for the weekend, with gates opening to the public at 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. on Sunday.

"There are cars in the Horticulture Building that are worth in excess of a million dollars and there are some cars that even I can afford" said McLean. "Everybody TMs car is important to them and just as important as someone else TMs, and I can TMt imagine there TMs a car that was ever made that TMs not out here."

In addition to seeing all the painstakingly restored and modified cars and trucks, there will be a number of activities geared toward car enthusiasts as well as the general public. Vendors will be selling classic cars and car parts, in addition to a host of food and beverage treats.

"There TMs a variety of things, said McLean. "Some people come to show their cars, some people come to sell their cars. There TMs 350 commercial vendors so if they TMre building a car they can buy that. We have 15 bands on three stage. We TMve got Henry Winkler, "The Fonz", over in the Horticulture Building. We refer to this event as the State Fair with cars instead of cows!"

The grandstand features drag racing and demolition derbies during the day, and there will be a fireworks show both Friday and Saturday night at dusk.

Dan Woods, host of SPEED Channel's "Chop Cut Rebuild", will also take part in the show, and there will be a Richard Petty tribute car on display

For more details and a complete schedule check their website.

We want to know what you think about the Syracuse Nationals. Will you be attending this weekend? If so, what is your favorite part of the show?

Click on the video tab to see an interview with Henry Winkler, and for more from the Syracuse Nationals.