Pumpkin Run, Eclectic Car Show in SJ Pine Barrens
The 14th Annual Pumpkin Run at Fleming’s, Egg Harbor, NJ
Blast From The Past Car Show
Amazing Sights, Sounds and Smells on a Beautiful Fall Day!
by K. Scott Teeters
I’ve been a “car guy” for the last 45 years. That means I’ve been to LOTS of car shows. The whole purpose of a “car show” is to show off your car. So, most car shows are usually held in a “nice” place, you know, civic centers, convention centers, car dealerships, parks, quaint downtown streets, race tracks, and boardwalks. Flemings Auto Parts in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey is what I call, an “old fashioned junk yard.” They probably prefer “salvage yard,” but unlike most of the salvage yards I’ve visited, with the junk cars all lined up in rows with letter-number designations for easy location, Flemings Auto Parts is a meandering, sprawling “yard” with ALL KINDS of old machines.
What a PERFECT place for a car show!
I’ve lived in Southern New jersey all my life and typically, the week after Halloween is, well, nasty. This year was no exception. From Monday to Thursday it was cold, rainy, misty, drizzly, windy, dank, and did I say “cold”? The wind and the rain does a pretty good job of pulling the colored leaves off the many oak trees. It seems as if overnight, we have almost bare trees. Late Thursday afternoon the skies began to clear and by evening there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Saturday morning we were greeted with clean blue skies with lots of sunshine through the bare trees, some of which were still holding on to the last of their colored leaves. It was a spectacular Autumn day – PERFECT for a car show in a rural junk yard.
Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey is at the very southern end of what is popularly known as “The Jersey Pine Barrens,” home of the Jersey Devil, Pineys, blueberries, cranberries, and stories of lost hunters of old. It’s located about 13 miles directly west of Atlantic City, NJ. Flemings Auto Parts is located on a road that you would probably never find, unless you knew exactly where you were going. It’s kind of out-of-the-way.
The “show” actually begins about 1/4 mile from Flemings on Zion Road, as you sure can’t miss the hot rods and vintage cars parked along the side of the road. THIS is the place. If you have a ride you want to show, admission is just $15 per car. To attend, it’s just $8 bucks.
Aside from the BIG American flag, the first thing you notice upon paying to get in is the carnival-like atmosphere. By 1pm when my wife, Karen and I arrived, it had warmed up to about 55-degrees, but with the warmth of the sun and a light denim jacket, it was warm enough. To get to the rows of cars you walked through rows of flea market vendors offering tie dye T-shirts, antiques, car parts, hand made crafts, car oil, you name it. In the background there was a disc jockey spinning old Johnny Rivers and Creedance records, interspersed with recordings of radio commercials from the ‘60s, and clips from the old WFIL radio “Famous ‘56 Boss Jock,” George Michaels. The combined smells of hot dogs, pines, hay, cars, cigars, and popcorn wafting through the air, created a real fall festival “atmosphere.”
Unlike being inside of a convention center or car showroom, every so often, you couldn’t miss an occasional, “VA-ROOM, BLAP-BLAP-BLAP, GA-ROOM, GA-ROOM of an open headered street rod. And off somewhere I kept hearing, “Choo-choooo…”Choo-Chooooo….” I thought, “Wow, someone has a small steam locomotive here somewhere.”
Perhaps it was because we had just experienced almost 5 days of crummy weather and it was now SO nice, everyone seemed to be in a very good mood. Car owners were happy to talk and answer questions about their rides. The kinds of cars went full-spectrum; muscle cars, rat rods, low riders, Vettes, a few Model T’s, street rods, choppers, vintage sports cars, Cobras, and even a Crosley!
After I went through all of my shots I realized that I didn’t shoot many Corvettes for my Corvette fans. There were more Vettes in attendance than I photographed.
When’s the last time you saw a Crosley driving down the road? Ever?
Obviously the owners of Flemings know where every vehicle is located, but to the first time visitor, the yard seems to meander this way and that. And did I mention, there are pumpkins everywhere? Giant old wrecking balls were painted as pumpkins and hung in the air on giant chains. Dotting the mulched walkways were large bails of hay decorated as pumpkins and farm animals.
We walked around a corner just in time to see a POOF of steam just as a huge old black kettle filled with corn was popping all at once. We were instantly immersed in the aroma of fresh popped corn and times gone by.
As we walked around the show, the yard’s rusting cars and pieced vehicles provided unique backgrounds that were a distinct part of the show. Around one corner, scattered about amongst the tall grasses, we saw what looked like a grave yard of old gas pumps.
In the last century, Southern New Jersey had several dirt race tracks. Gathered here and there were the remains of someone’s dreams of race car victory. I know that every one of these old war horses has a story that most likely, no one remembers.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride in a MONSTER TRUCK? Honestly, I personally would not be comfortable 12 feet off the ground in the back of such a truck that’s doing figure-eights on those soft, bouncy tires. Okay, the driver was going rather slow and everyone seemed to like their ride. And I kept hearing that choo-choo.
The Pumpkin Run is open to ALL kinds of vehicles. Perhaps one of the most unusual was this vintage Army troop transporter. My goodness, how many old Army movies have we all seen with these trucks? This one was obviously restored to original condition, evidenced in the cloud of exhaust smoke. It was just another part of the “ambiance” of The Pumpkin Run.
Unlike the functioning Army troop transporter, this Army chopper was definitely not going anywhere. But I keep hearing that train!
Obviously, Flemings has been around for some time. Another part of the background décor was this collection of old tractor/trailer gigs that are long gone. How many miles and stories could each one of these old work horses tell of the early days of America’s interstate transportation system?
As the afternoon went on, we began to notice the light lower in the sky and just a tad of a nip in the air. Cars were beginning to line up to go home, as it was getting close to the 4pm close of the show. I had heard about the Pumpkin Run cedar shingle souvenir as this is where they historically made cedar shingles. My nose kind of lead me there, as I couldn’t miss the aroma of burned cedar. We walked around a corner and there was the guy, branding cedar shakes with “Pumpkin Run 2009” for just a buck! But, where in the heck is that old steam train?
One of the last things we saw at the 2009 Pumpkin Run was a beautiful, fully restored and functioning steam tractor. I kept hearing “Choo-choooooo…” from time to time and assumed that there was a functioning, old steam locomotive – perhaps a small one. I used to do drawings of steam tractors when I worked for Matchbox Collectibles, but never saw one. Steam locomotive trains were just about all gone when I was a small kid in the late ‘50s. What a delight to see a functioning steam tractor. These are machines that, like hot rods, seem as if they are alive and breathing. Granted, steamers are terribly inefficient and require tons of maintenance, but it’s still fun to see one of these relics from a time that is all but forgotten.
We took 80 plus images at the 2009 Pumpkin Run Street Rod Show and Antique Engine & Tractor Show at Flemings Auto Parts. You may enjoy these thanks to PhotoBucket.com by going to this url…
Photos taken by Scott Teeters and Karen Teeters
So, next year, if you don’t mind a ride through the Jersey pines, take in the 15th Annual Pumpkin Run. You’ll be in for a car treat, South Jersey-style. Y’all come back now, YA HEAR! – K. Scott Teeters 11.15.09
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