Brad Byrd InDEPTH: No Frog Follies 2020

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(WEHT) — The E’ville Iron Street Rod Club has put on the Frog Follies every year since 1975. This year’s event was canceled to the pandemic. Brad Byrd talked to the organization’s president.

Transcription

Brad Byrd: Welcome to InDEPTH. For 45 years, it has been woven into our summertime routine- The Frog Follies. It turns our landscape into a scene right out of American Graffiti with more than 4,000 street rods cruising into town and camping out at the Vanderburgh 4-H Center, but not this year.

COVID-19 has claimed another event, this one a big one that attracts thousands of tourists to our region. Joining me tonight is Tom Peck, president of the E’ville Iron Street Rods Club. Tom, this certainly was not an easy decision. The announcement was made this week the Follies were off for 2020, but you had been worried for some time that this was going to happen this year.

Tom Peck: Brad that’s correct. This pandemic has been very tough to figure out how to make things safe for people and how people can stay healthy and it’s just been tough to try and figure out how to handle that. Right now we’re looking at social distancing and masks. You know, people who have
immunity problems, they’re basically urged to stay home. And so, yeah, it was a very tough decision for our club.

BB: And you just don’t throw this together last minute, like a week before the rods roll into town. How were registrations going after the pandemic had started and had been acknowledged?

TP: You know Brad, we still had somewhere around 2200 pre registered cars and they were continuing to flow in. Not as quickly as they had been prior to that, but they still were flowing in, so people were still registering to come.

BB: This has been a big impact, Tom, on not only the event, but also the Tri-State region: hotels and restaurants, people seeing our town for the first time. It not being there is a very tough pill to swallow. What was the club’s top concern? And the decisions you told me earlier this week- it was very painful, but the biggest concern was what?

TP: Well, in reality, it’s the health and safety of not only our club members, but our vendors and our volunteers and our street routers that come and that was the main thing. And yes, it’s very tough. Our club, we have 46 members, and every one of them is a very caring individual and an A plus individual. And to make this decision was just monumental for them in in the fact that we have put that show on and we have strived to have a world class event for people to come to. And I think that’s why our show is very popular and why people keep coming back. But not only that, as you said, that there’s a lot of economic things for the city and the surrounding areas. All our proceeds go to charities for individuals with physical impairments. And that’s a tough thing for our group is not to be able to have rod run, where we can generate some funds to give to these organizations.

BB: So that that will undoubtedly have an impact on charities next year, I would assume.

TP: Yes, I mean, typically we have have our rod run and then usually October, November, we’re putting money out to these organizations. And you know, when you think about the past years, I think we’re pushing close to a million and a half dollars that we’ve given to the rehab center Easter Seals.

BB: Well, the charities definitely depend a lot upon the these events and the E’ville Iron Street Rod Club, I can’t say enough good things about the people who make that up. And you know, I’m gonna date myself here, Tom, I covered that first year, 1975 and you had about, I think about 140 to 145 cars. How did this grow so big?

TP: Well Brad, I think that like I said we have a very affordable and a family oriented show. We are still charging around 20 bucks for an entry. And for the $20 they they get an event t shirt, they get a meal on Saturday night, they get breakfast on Sunday morning and we also have a band for Friday night and a band for Saturday night that’s free for for the street routers. Plus, we have a goodie bag that goes with it. And then we try and keep our concession costs fairly low so that families can come and it’s not an arm and a leg for them to come out have a good time and and have something to eat.

BB: Full steam ahead next year, Tom?

TP: Oh, yes, yes, we’re already talking about things that we might like to change. I mean, it’s a continual process, but there’s things that we know we’re probably still going to be held over from this pandemic and how we’re gonna, you know, try and help and handle those type of things.

BB: Well, my 59 Impala doesn’t qualify as a rod, as you know, but maybe I can drive it up there next year, and it’ll be much better year for all in Tom Peck, president of the E’ville Iron Street Rod Club, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us tonight about a tough decision. Stay safe out there.

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