At the reception, which was packed, Bowling Green's finest showed up, including Mayor Jones, West, Sheriff Peanuts Gaines and prominent businessman David Garvin. Garvin, whose dad founded Beech Bend Park, was given a Wally award for his contributions to sport and National Hot Rod Reunion.
Mayor Jones not only read a proclamation making June 18-20 "National Hot Rod Reunion Days," but jumped in dragster afterwards and fired it up to the delight of a cheering crowd. It's no wonder Mayor Jones called the Reunion "one of the most fun, colorful events in Bowling Green."
Master of Ceremonies Dave McClelland charmed the audience throughout the evening with his anecdotes on this year's Heritage Award Honorees: Al Bergler, Bob Larivee Sr., Jim and Alison Lee, Art Malone and Bill Smith, plus Linda Vaughn, the Justice Brothers Spotlight Award winner.
One by one the Honorees came up on stage to applause and appreciation from the crowd. McClelland wove his magic with each introduction, sprinkling history with insightful personal stories.
First up was Al Bergler, who began his career building aluminum dragster bodies and racing in Top Fuel. In competition, he drove cars such as "More Aggravation," a competition coupe and the "Motown Shaker," one of the earliest Funny Cars. A master craftsman at bodybuilding, with aluminum interior work his specialty, Bergler won the first Don Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama in 1964.
"I'm glad us old guys can come out and have fun drag racing," he said to the crowd. "I'm honored to be a part of drag racing history."
Next up was Bob Larivee Sr., best known as the creator of the International Show Car Association (ISCA), the International Auto Show Producers Association (IASPA), and Promotions Inc., the promoter of the Detroit Autorama. Larivee, who said he was "bitten by the hot rod bug as a young boy," was one of the organizers of the Michigan Hot Rod Association (MHRA).
McClelland introduced Jim and Alison Lee as one word: "JimandAlisonLee." He told the crowd "Every time they were mentioned, I thought it was one word. People said it together because they were always together." The Lees were veteran dragster owners who epitomize the best in class and style. The Virginians began racing sportsman dragsters in the early 1960s with a '32 Ford that ran in A/Altered. Jim then moved up to Top Gas with a Blown Olds clocked at 170 mph in the 8.90 second range. Alison Lee became one of the top female mechanics in drag racing. At the end of 1966, Jim retired from driving, but the couple continued as an owner/mechanic team in Top Fuel.