About the Over the Road Gang Inc.
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 hometown 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. On 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 30+ annual shows. 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 hometown 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 throughout 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 midwest.
One of the Over the Road Gang's major goals as a non-profit agency is to use a substantial portion of our revenue to provide scholarships for local high school seniors who wish to further their education in an automotive-related field.
Applications are available on this site as well as at Ottawa High School, West Franklin High School, and Central Heights High School. All Franklin County seniors are eligible to apply as long as they will be enrolling in automotive-related courses after they graduate. Enrollment information is required before funding is released to those students chosen by our scholarship committee.
Unlike many other scholarship offerings, our scholarships are not merely awarded for high GPAs and community service. Good attendance, average grades, hard work, and a true interest in a career in the automotive field are what we look at first. Please take the time to complete an application if you are interested in pursuing a career in the automotive industry. For scholarship information, contact us via email.
The Over the Road Gang is a non-profit organization. We thought you might be interested to know what is done with the profits we receive from our annual car show. The following are organizations that our club has donated to in the recent past:
The Franklin County Cancer Foundation, Inc.
The Franklin County Cancer Foundation is a non-profit organization that was formed in the spring of 1998 to aid active cancer patients in Franklin County, Kansas. They are a group of community volunteers who help in many ways that other cancer groups do not. They operate with less red tape and more compassion. With the combined effort of the Franklin County community, they work to make life a little easier for local residents as they and their families cope with cancer. They are in continuous need for volunteers and donations to help them make a difference.
Several of our club members and their loved ones have personally benefitted from the kindness and compassion of the Franklin County Cancer Foundation. Our club has donated to this cause for many years. In addition, we often donate one-half of our 50-50 pot contributions as well. We appreciate all they do for our community.
The Franklin County Diabetes Association
Our involvement with this organization began at the request of a past member who deals with diabetes on a daily basis. We contribute annually to this worthwhile organization.
Lake Region Resource Conservation and Development Program
Lake Region RC&D is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization serving Franklin, Anderson, Coffey, Linn, Miami, and Osage Counties in Kansas. All projects and programs are funded through grants and donations. The program's mission is to plan and initiate leadership and education to assist communities to develop local goals and objectives for managing economic growth improving the quality of land, water, and life. The organization is creating a better environment for attracting industry, increasing recreation opportunities, and beautifying the countryside within Lake Region.
The Lake Region RC&D collects broken and unwanted bikes and then takes them to the Ellsworth Correction Facility to be refurbished. The refurbished bikes are adopted by deserving children within the six counties served by the Lake Region RC&D. When faced with severe budget cuts, the RC&D found themselves in need of assistance. Our club was honored to help out. We have been very happy to also be involved with the adopt-a-bike program that provides refurbished bicycles and safety gear to regional children.
Toys for Kids Ride
The annual Toys for Kids Ride provides toys for 400 to 500 youths in Ottawa and Franklin County each year. The event begins with a chili appreciation feed at the Eagles Lodge. It is followed by a ride/parade down Ottawa's Main Street to Forest Park where bikers deliver donated toys to an ECKAN representative. Later, bikers travel to the 700 Club in Pomona for an auction to raise more money to purchase toys.
The Ottawa Police Foundation
The Ottawa Police Foundation (OPF) exists to promote public safety by supporting and providing additional resources for community outreach programs, for advanced professional development of Ottawa's law enforcement members, for acquisition of advanced technology to improve crime-fighting, and by creating community partnerships that encourage citizen participation to enhance the safety of Ottawa. Their mission is "to raise awareness and community support for the Ottawa Police Department."
The Over the Road Gang greatly appreciates the support received from the Ottawa Police Department during the Ol' Marais River Run and cruise night. Having a top-notch family event and keeping our participants and spectators safe is our highest priority. Our donation to OPF is one small way to thank the department for all of the extra work they put in to help our event happen each year.