Lonestar Round Up brings the wonder of the open road curbside

Anna-Kay Reeves

Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, seafoam green and hot rods — these things can belong to no era other than the 1950s.

Lonestar Round Up, an annual gathering of classic cars, live music and vendors, caters to that sense of mid-century Americana nostalgia and beyond. This year’s event will take place April 5 through April 8. General admission wristbands for Lonestar Round Up are $15 and grant entrance to the expo both Friday and Saturday featuring cars, music and vendors. Other featured events on Lonestar’s schedule are located around Austin and not included with the wristband.

For Rudy Morales, manager of the classic car garage Rex Rod and Chassis, Lonestar Round Up is more than just an opportunity to display the specialty work they do restoring classic cars and hot rods in their shop — it’s a chance to connect with the community.

“Each year we set up a vendor booth at the Lonestar Round Up, showcasing traditional-style hot rods and motors built here at Rex Rods,” Morales said. “Keeping these vintage hot rods on the road creates the opportunity for younger generations to see, learn and appreciate early hot rods. It also gives the older generation a chance to reflect on the past.”

This sentiment, shared by many in the community of classic cars, spurred Steve Wertheimer, owner of Lonestar Round Up, to start the festival with two friends.

“I was part of a group of car enthusiasts that drove out to California for car shows. It wasn’t that I thought we could do the shows better necessarily, but we thought it would be nice to have some good shows closer to Texas,” Wertheimer said.

According to Wertheimer, the show has grown exponentially over the years. At the first show, there were 80 cars and a crowd made up of mostly friends, compared to the most recent show, which had 2,000 cars and a crowd of thousands from around the world.

“Most car shows are limited to cars, but with my background in the music scene I wanted to add that element in as well. So now in addition to cars and live music, there’s a swap meet and thousands of vendors. It’s become a bit of a catch-all, something for everyone,” Wertheimer said.

Charlie “Mercury Charlie” Runnels, another classic car specialist and owner of Mercury Charlie Garage, said he feels the festival’s nod to the past is essential.

“The ‘50s were a magical time in America that will never be replicated. It was a golden age that should be remembered, because it laid the groundwork for so much of today’s culture … I think people should know about that, because it will make them better able to appreciate what’s happening right now,” Runnels said.

Runnels has participated in the Lonestar Round Up festival since it first began 17 years ago. He said the event is a way to stay connected to that moment in time, as well as a way to make the present more interesting.

“When you’re in one of those classic models, people recognize it’s something special and you see people giving a thumbs up as you’re driving. These cars add something special to what has become a world of disposable things.”

According to Runnels, though many in the classic car community value the memories these cars bring back, nostalgia isn’t the only appeal of shows like Lonestar Round Up. Even for people who never lived during the era of sock hops and soda pops, taking part in events like Lonestar Round Up can make connecting to the American past easy and interesting.