PENINSULA — Thousands of classic car aficionados converged on the Long Beach Peninsula for the 36th annual Rod Run to the End of the World over the weekend.

Festivities kicked off Friday with the Slow Drag competition at the Port of Ilwaco.

Jon Vetter of Oregon City, driving a 1966 Chevrolet Caprice he built with his father, took first place. He never lost heat in the double-elimination event.

“It’s awesome,” said Vetter, who was flanked by his girlfriend Cherish Berry, daughter Brooke Vetter and nephew Quintin Vetter, 8, following the competition. It was his sixth Slow Drag.

“I took third a few years ago and I had to go for it all the way this time,” he said.

On Saturday the main event was held in Ocean Park, where the green fields of the Beach Baron Car Club were transformed into a sprawling gathering of classic cars and trucks of nearly every make and model.

The two-day event is an annual pilgrimage for car enthusiasts across the Pacific Northwest. Often considered the grand finale of Pacific County’s primary visitor season, the weekend attracted thousands, who packed area highways and sidewalks.

No major problems were reported.

“I look forward to this event every year,” said Sterling Johnson of Kelso, who purchased property in Ocean Park, largely to have a space to stay in this camper when the car show comes, as hotels and RV sites are often booked months in advance.

A stock 1957 Buick convertible was among the cars Johnson came to see.

“Like the one at the end of the ‘La Bamba’ movie — the manager drives a 1957 Buick Convertible,” he said. “I like the unique stuff that hasn’t been customized. Those are rare.”

For others, the Rod Run has become family tradition, where a father and son like the Batemans can bond over a 1955 Ford.

“He’s been here every year of his life, since he was a little baby in a stroller,” said Wes Bateman, standing next to his now 21-year-old son Brent. “It’s an annual thing and a nice getaway to come down here.”

Luke Whittaker is a staff writer for Coast River Business Journal and the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or lwhittaker@crbizjournal.com.

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