Hot rods coming through Thursday

Mayors get last-minute heads-up on 3,000-car throng

Expect to see some heavy traffic in Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls on Thursday – just don’t try to race them.

The Hot Rod Power Tour will cruise through the Sauk Valley, bringing as many as 3,000 hot rods and sports cars through the three cities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The tour also will roll through Oregon.

The 20th anniversary tour left Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday and will stop to put on free car shows in seven cities in 7 days. The 1,600-mile journey will make its final stop Friday in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

The route will pass through the Sauk Valley, possibly snarling traffic on some of the main arteries. The tour will leave Rockford on state Route 2, coming south into Dixon, where the hot rods will make their way north on Galena Avenue to Everett Street then head west, coming through Sterling.

The tour will turn north on Lynn Boulevard, then south on state Route 40 and travel through Rock Falls before jumping onto Interstate 88 on its way west to the sixth of the seven cities, Bettendorf, Iowa. The car show will be at the Isle Casino Hotel.

The event, which is sponsored by Hot Rod magazine, was started as an event just for the publication’s editors.

The mayors of the three Sauk Valley cities along the route said they were caught a bit off-guard by a lack of notice about the event.

Rock Falls Mayor Bill Wescott said he found out about it through an email forwarded to him by Sterling Mayor Skip Lee on May 20. The email wasn’t even from an event organizer. It was sent by a participant in suburban Chicago who thought he would give them a heads-up in case they didn’t know about it.

“They wanted public works people called out to help, and part of Route 40 blocked off,” Wescott said. “There’s a process with IDOT to blocking off part of a state highway, and we really didn’t want to be paying city people overtime for this at the last minute.”

Wescott said Rock Falls and Sterling agreed to have the area chambers of commerce send emails to local businesses so they could they could take advantage of the influx of people.

As for the traffic, city officials have been told that although up to 3,000 hot rods will cruise through their towns, their presence will probably be staggered.

“The drivers make stops along the way, so they won’t all be moving through at once,” Wescott said. “We might have large numbers of people backed up at stoplights for a while, but we’ll deal with it.”

In Sterling, city officials also stressed that the traffic wouldn’t be in town all at once.

“[Fire] Chief Gary Cook has driven in these before, and he said the traffic is staggered and it shouldn’t be that bad,” City Manager Scott Shumard said.

Although the drivers won’t come through the cities all at once, Dixon Tourism and the Dixon Park District have stepped up efforts to welcome them. An ice cream party is planned from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Page Park; complimentary cones will be given to the first 1,000 in the tour group. The Petunia Capital of Illinois and hometown of 40th President Ronald “Dutch” Reagan will serve visitors Petunia Strawberry and Dutch Chocolate ice cream. Vendors will set up to sell food for lunch.

The public can come to the park to check out the cars, chat with owners, and have lunch.  

Hot Rod Magazine Hot Rod Power Tour

When: Up to 3,000 hot rods and sports vehicles expected to cruise through Sauk Valley from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.

Where: State Route 2 into Dixon, onto Galena Avenue to Everett Street west into Sterling, to Lynn Boulevard to state Route 40 south through Rock Falls to I-88 and west to Bettendorf, Iowa.

More information: www.hotrod.com or find it on Facebook