It's the Big Shindig in Montana

Flathead Valley’s DeSoto Grill and Glacier Street Rod Association’s "The Big Shindig" was a lifeline to street rodders in Montana in 2020.
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Left-to-right: ’25 T roadster owned by Russ Freund of Otis Orchard, Wash.; Wayne 12-port-equpped ’34 five-window owned by Cedric Meeks of Damascus, Ore.; Best of Show ’34 three-window owned by Ryan McCrery of Spokane, Wash.

Left-to-right: ’25 T roadster owned by Russ Freund of Otis Orchard, Wash.; Wayne 12-port-equpped ’34 five-window owned by Cedric Meeks of Damascus, Ore.; Best of Show ’34 three-window owned by Ryan McCrery of Spokane, Wash.

Is it safe enough to speculate that the year 2020 won’t be missed by many. Without dwelling on the dark side, let’s focus only on our affected old car hobby.

Now I don’t know about you, but I tend to attend the same events every year. With cancellations sweepin’ the nation last year, there was not as much to do. Out in California, the LA Roadster Show should not be missed. But sure enough, for the first time in its 60-year history, it was cancelled.

It’s become the same most everywhere. Lately the old car crowds in Idaho, Oregon and Washington have not so much to do, either. Here in Montana, our own favorite event nearly didn’t happen until certain restrictions were lifted in the proverbial nick of time. When word came down that the Flathead Valley’s DeSoto Grill and Glacier Street Rod Association’s fifth-annual must-attend event, The Big Shindig, would indeed be held almost as usual, old car and hot rod enthusiasts in surrounding shutdown states hit the highway for Kalispell.

Despite the forecast, Rick Billuni of Whitefish, Mont., taunted darkened skies in his pro-built ’65 Nomad show car.

Despite the forecast, Rick Billuni of Whitefish, Mont., taunted darkened skies in his pro-built ’65 Nomad show car.

At the center of the setting is old downtown Kalispell’s historic forge building — a genuine false-fronted landmark that houses the popular restaurant known as DeSoto Grill. It’s owned and operated by hot rodders Willie and Shawnna Steele.

Ordinarily, the Friday evening pre-party would include indoor dining and a comical burlesque-type talent show. Due to circumstances at the time, the indoor entertainment was omitted from the program. Outdoors, however, it was on with live music, commercial exhibitors and beverage purveyors on-site on June 20. Also as usual, DeSoto Grill served up delectable southern-style barbecue featuring not one, but two slow-smoked pigs’-worth of pulled pork products.

Kim Meeks of Damascus, Ore., brought her hopped-up Deuce five-window. Here’s a good example of lookin’ fast while sittin’ still.

Kim Meeks of Damascus, Ore., brought her hopped-up Deuce five-window. Here’s a good example of lookin’ fast while sittin’ still.

In addition to crowd-pleasin’ competitions such as pinup polar plunges, frozen T-shirt contests and such, The Big Shindig is known for great raffle prizes. For 2020 there were also live auctions. The auctions’ proceeds benefit the Mikayla’s Miracles & Blessings Foundation. Each year, with the help of the area’s generous car crowd, the foundation donates a specially equipped van to a deserving family in need of assistance that insurance companies won’t provide.

Thanks partly to guests from surrounding states, The Big Shindig 2020 was the biggest yet. With 245 registered entries, allotted city blocks were packed to capacity with cars as side-street perimeter parking was utilized throughout the day as well.

At times like these, it’s good to have a new favorite event. Complete truth be told, The Big Shindig has been ours now for five years running.

The 2021 Big Shindig will be held Saturday, June 19, at The Desoto Grill, 227 1st St W., Kalispell, MT 59901. Learn more at http://desotogrill.com.

Here are a few more shots from the 2020 Big Shindig

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