LONG BEACH PENINSULA — Seven-year-old Summer Zinsli waved a makeshift checker flag as a classic car thundered by her Long Beach driveway Saturday afternoon.
Summer, along with her sister, Sunday, 9, and mom, Frannie, were among the thousands that celebrated an unofficial Rod Run along the Long Beach Peninsula over the weekend.
What would have been the official 37th annual Rod Run — a weekend of classic car shows and competition that culminates the summer event schedule for the Long Beach Peninsula — was cancelled in July as a precaution aimed at limiting large gatherings to help slow the spread of the covid-19 virus. Still, thousands turned out for a weekend of four-wheeled revelry.
“We’re having so much fun,” said Frannie Zinsli as rare and classic vehicles roared past their Long Beach driveway, some blowing their horns and waving as they passed. Frannie would typically be working this weekend, she said, but was thankful to get to experience it with her daughters while sitting in a blanket atop their black Chevy.
Many car fans
Spectators lined both sides of Pacific Avenue from Seaview through Long Beach, and as far north as Bay Avenue in Ocean Park. Many were able to socially distance in their own vehicles while others spread out chairs and blankets. Crowds were primarily congregated in downtown Long Beach, between Bolstad Avenue and Sid Snyder Drive. Rod Run typically, in normal years, attracts around 800 to 900 registered car owners and draws a sizable crowd of classic cars fans from around the region.
As with the car show portion, the Slow Drag, usually held at the Port of Ilwaco along Howerton Avenue on Friday evening, was cancelled. Beach Baron Field in Ocean Park was largely barren on Saturday, the day when traditionally hundreds of cars fill the field for the annual Swap Meet. Instead the action was largely centered in downtown Long Beach, where large groups leisurely watched the cars slowly drove along Pacific Avenue, part of a designated loop around the peninsula.
Among those watching was Lori Matthias of Dallesport, a Rod Run attendee of more than 30 years.
“We come out for Rod Run every year,” Matthias said as she leaned against her blue 1926 Ford Model T, a car she’s owned 37 years. “I’ve been coming for 34 years now, we look forward to this every year.”
Matthias, a previous winner of the Mayor’s Award in the car judging competition, said the covid-19 wasn’t a concern for her visit.
“Not at all. Not at all. I feel really good about my surroundings and comfortable about where I’m going — just wear a mask,” she said.
Safe and sound
Apart from wildlife smoke and vehicle exhaust, there was little to complain about over the weekend. The city of Long Beach — the epicenter of this year’s event — brought in 16 officers from outside the area to assist.
“There were definitely fewer classic cars and such on the roadway,” Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright said. “Normally on Saturday when the show lets out, southbound traffic on SR 103 is backed up past the golf course. We did not have that this year. The farthest it backed up this year was to about 14th North and that did not last long.”
Wright noted that although there was a large crowd, “I would guess it was about 40% less than normal. Also on both Friday and Saturday night the town was empty by 11 p.m. which we have never had before.”
From a law-enforcement standpoint, there were more than usual prohibited “burnouts,” which put spectators on sidewalks in potential danger and generate toxic smoke. Police made many traffic stops but only made two DUI arrests and wrote three suspended-driving tickets. There was one traffic accident which resulted in two citations. In total, LBPD made seven citations and gave out around 100 warnings. A lot of campfires, banned due to fire danger, had to be ordered extinguished.
There was a good show of support for local law enforcement.
“The crowd was the friendliest I have ever seen,” Wright observed. “Over and over again, we were all told how much they appreciated us and what we do. I can’t tell you how many times over the weekend I personally had people thank me for what I do and how they supported us. It had to be over 60 times and all the other officers experienced the same thing.”