Bigfork Rumblings

By Beacon Staff

I have to admit that I’ve never owned a hot rod or even a classic car. But I did really like the movie, “American Graffiti,” and it was a lot of fun reminiscing with Ed Mitchke over some of the scenes from that movie: Mel’s Drive-In, the drag race, Candy Clark tumbling into the back seat with Charles Martin Smith. But for Ed, it wasn’t just a movie – it was inspiration for the Bigfork car show he runs, Rumble in the Bay.

This will be the second year that Rumble in the Bay has been run by the Bigfork VFW and Ed is the VFW’s chairman for the event. Originally the idea of Jill Mehall of Creative and Native, she and the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce hosted the show for four years before giving it to the VFW. I’ll have to admit I was skeptical when the show changed hands, but having seen the results of the VFW’s efforts last year and hearing of the plans this year, I find I’m pretty pleased with the new arrangement.

I caught up with Ed at Eagle Bend Yacht Harbor, where he works as the harbormaster. He was excited to tell me some details of the show, including the fact that last year they had 336 cars and about 10,000 attendees. And this year, it’s likely to be even bigger. Bigger?

“Our pre-registrations are in line with last year,” Ed told me, “so we’ll probably have a similar number of cars. But this year we’re adding boats. It looks like we’ll have a couple dozen wooden boats on display at Marina Cay, an easy walk from Electric Avenue. Sunday evening, after the show, we’re planning a dance in the parking lot at Harvest Foods with live music and refreshments. And we’re tied into the airplane show at the Ferndale airport, going on at the same time, with a shuttle that runs back and forth.”

The car portion of the show will occur along the length of Electric Avenue and extend onto Grand Avenue and Bridge Street. Cars of all types and eras, along with their owners, will line up from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hot rods, classic cars, customized cars – even expect to see cars built from wood or airplane drop tanks.

“And the people can be as interesting as the cars,” Ed added. “You’ll see car hops and psychedelic flower children of the ‘60s. We even had one guy and his wife who simulated a ‘50’s service station, complete with uniforms and a gas pump.”

“It’s not just for car buffs,” he continued. “It’s literally ‘American Graffiti’ come to life. For an hour or for the whole day, you’re transported back to the time of street rods, beatniks, and drag racing.”

How does Ed manage to create this feel? “As car shows go, this one is pretty low key. Not in terms of enthusiasm, but in terms of stakes. It’s not a high-dollar show with hefty entry fees and big-dollar prizes. To enter a car, you pay $25 and you hope to win a trophy. This means that the cars we attract belong to hobbyists or families of hobbyists, where father and son work on grandpa’s car. And with free admission, just attending the show is a real family event.”

Although admission is free, the show does raise significant dollars for the VFW, all of which goes to charitable causes. “We raised $3,500 last year and none of that went to the VFW for operations. Rather, it funded several of our charities, including the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen essay contests, which we sponsor at the local schools. It also went to the local Coats for Kids project that provides winter coats for kids who might otherwise not have them.”

So what kind of cars does Ed like? “I like cars that are stock, or nearly so. Cars used to be works of art with the colors, the chrome and the ornamentation. Maybe swap in a bigger engine, but leave the rest alone.” A bigger engine? Ed grins, “Yeah, I like ‘em stock, but I also like ‘em fast.”

Rumble in the Bay. Sunday, September 1. Registration starts at 9 a.m. Show starts at 10. Admission is free. See the website at

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