In Lawrence, Kansas on New Year’s Eve of 1985, five friends, Dannie Burnett, Ralph Finch, Tommy Sink, Wes Taylor and Roger Ward gathered to celebrate the holiday. The five men and their families frequently attended car shows together and began talking about having a car show in their home-town of Ottawa since Forest Park was a much nicer venue than many of the shows they attended. A few months later, Dannie invited friends and family to his shop on the north side of Ottawa to discuss having a car show and the Over the Road Gang car club was born.
(If anyone out there has a complete list of the original members, we would love to have a copy!)
The first Ol’ Marais Rod and Custom Show was held in Ottawa’s beautiful Forest Park in September of 1986. There were approximately 150 participants at the first show. I wonder if any of the original members envisioned that 30 years later, nearly 2,000 vehicles would be driving through the Forest Park gates to attend what is now called the Ol’ Marais River Run.
Oct. 27, 1995, the club was provided Articles of Incorporation which granted us 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
Many members have come and gone but each one has left a stamp on the car club and car show. Many have stuck it out through the years, some people left by choice, some have left and returned, and some have gone to meet their maker; all at some point have felt great pride in being a part of this group that has survived to put on the 30th annual show this September. Thanks to all of our newest members, our long-time members, and all those in between for the help, support and strength it takes to continue on this journey to offer an event that not only supports our community but has come to be known as one of the best car shows in the Midwest.
We are a non-profit organization with approximately 30 family memberships in our club. Our main purpose has always been to offer a fun, family-oriented car show while at the same time promoting our downtown businesses and our entire community. Proceeds from our show are given back to our home town area in the form of scholarships, donations to charitable organizations and Forest Park improvements, etc.
Our club has worked hard to make our car show one that people truly want to come back to. Proof of our success is seen every year that our participant numbers increase. We are the only event in Franklin County that fills every motel within a 35 mile radius. The businesses in our city and county have come to rely on our show weekend as being one of the most profitable all year. Forest Park is a beautiful place to have a car show. There are shade trees through-out the entire grassy park.
Our Back to the 60’s Cruise night is held with help from the city, county and state when we close off ten blocks of 59 Highway for the evening. The street is closed to all traffic EXCEPT street rods. It is truly an event to behold. Thousands of spectators show up on Saturday evening to see the vehicles in motion. We consider our “FREE” admission for spectators a way to say “thank you” to our community for allowing us to share our town with rod run enthusiasts from all over the mid-west.