Thousands of people flocked to downtown Gering Friday for the Oregon Trail Days’ International Food Fair and annual Rod and Custom Car Show. The two concurrent events saw the transformation of Tenth Street into a visitor’s paradise for the evening.
“For car shows, it’s a really laid-back one,” Mike Minzey, the show’s organizer and an Oregon Trail days board member, said. “We don’t get really serious about this. We have no registration fee. We have four trophies for this.”
Through the car show’s 18 years, Minzey has been in charge for 12 of those.
The event featured a live DJ and an interactive impaired driving simulator presented by the Nebraska State Patrol. Around 70 cars were featured, from vintage hot rods to newer vehicles to experimental custom ones.
“We allow a tremendous amount of different (types) here … it’s something that anybody can come down, see and partake in,” Minzey said.
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Allan Maybee presented a custom black and purple vehicle dubbed “The Black Rose.” It belonged to a high school friend, but he lost his license in the 1990s and passed the car over to Maybee.
“It’s an old, old car. I think he made a rod out of it in 1965 … and that was his baby,” Maybee said.
Maybee has brought The Black Rose to car shows before and has participated in numerous Oregon Trail Days events.
“I get to meet all kinds of people. Generally, the average person doesn’t know the finer details, but they kind of all have something in common in that they love cars. So we have common ground and we start talking and it’s fun talking to them,” he said.
The hot rods weren’t the only vehicles lining up and down the street. Dozens of different food trucks, each offering a variety of items, attracted throngs of visitors just south of the car show.
From ice cream to tacos, funnel cakes to chow mein, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Lines stretched 20 or 30 people long, and diners crowded the available benches.
“I was born and raised here so we came here every year,” Dave Fees, owner of Bluffs Barbecue, said as he prepared a customer’s order. “I just thought one day we should probably do this,”
He said he enjoyed meeting new people and serving new food. Normally his team would cater brisket and ribs to events, but for the food festival, they mixed things up a little.
“Different events, we’ll do different things,” he said.
Friday’s menu consisted of smothered corn cobs and smoked sausage sandwiches, which Fees’ team had spent an hour and a half preparing before customers arrived.
“…We’re just continually going through it. I want to give people fresh food, you know?”
Among the thousands of people sampling different menu items was Meredyth Gentry, the Old Settlers honorary vice president for this year’s Oregon Trail Days. She was enjoying Chinese food from the Chinese House food station with her husband, son and grandson.
“We like to come out and usually, we end up choosing different menus, but tonight, we chose the same thing,” Gentry said. “We enjoy it, and who knows, we might meet some of our classmates down here. We’ll probably go get a dessert of some kind.”