45th Annual Spring Meet
Bentonville, AR - April 22-25, 2015

Ray Jones - Meet Host

I have been the Meet Coordinator for over 20 years. Usually begging for Hosts to step forward and organizing a meet. Sometimes, I come up empty and have to do it myself. I enjoy doing it.

This was a "fill in the hole" meet. With the Fall Meet in August, I had to have an early Spring meet or a late Fall meet. I decided to make it in April, since I also decided to have it in Bentonville, AR. Jo and I had visited the Crystal Bridges Art Museum and felt it offered a great place for our members to visit. In our scouting trip with the Chamber of Commerce Director, we also found some other neat venues. From that trip, we started to plan the meet.

I also picked out and contracted the Hotel. WOW!! This has to be one of the best we ever stayed at or among the best. It was a Double Tree Suites by Hilton. The rooms were wonderful, living room and a separate bedroom, both with TV's. Also, microwave and fridge. The staff couldn't do enough for us, the Breakfast was the best ever, with Omelets  to order, all the meats, fruits, cereals, some mornings Pancakes, other waffles, biscuits and gravy and the list goes on. ALL included in the $104. room rate.

The Hospitality room was stocked by Wednesday noon, and the Meet was underway. Meet and greet there with all the usual goodies and drinks.

The first to check in was Dan and Jo Ann Morrison from Wasilla, ALASKA!!! Came for the Meet!

On Thursday, we went to the Museum when it opened @ 11a.m. After the great Breakfast, the Museum Restaurant, "11" was a resting spot after a few hours of browsing the Art. They also had many different local brewed Beers along with other snacks and heavier fare.

We left @ 4 p.m. and proceeded to Simple Pleasures (go here: www.http://simplepleasures.us) for an idea of what we enjoyed. A neat acreage with lots of Auto Art scattered around. From the Waterfall going into an old  Pick-up trucks bed, to the car collection, to the old Chrysler down over the cliff beside the dance pavilion, to "Ray's Garage" to the inside with all the old collectables, this was a delight. We had a Chicken and Ribs Dinner there with all the country trimmings and everyone enjoyed it. After dinner on to the Ice Cream Bar! Finally left and went back to the hotel for the Parking lot sessions and talking in the Hospitality Room until late at night. (Not as late as we usua!)

Friday morning we had the Business Meeting, but before it started, a gentleman was driving by and saw some of our cars parked in front of the Hotel and came in. He talked to some members and asked to speak at our meeting. We invited him to do so and....

Now this is where ALL of you who DID NOT come, can bang your heads against the wall.

Turns out he was Daniel Shewmaker, the son of Jack Shewmaker the first President of Walmart and who helped Sam Walton to grow Walmart into what it is today. He said he had an ulterior motive for approaching us. He wants to fill out his Dad's wish list. Jack died in 2010 and always wanted  a "D" convertible and Daniel wants to obtain one to complete his Dad's wish list. He then invited us to see the collection, which includes a 'C' conv., 'E' conv., 'F' conv., and "G" Hard Top. Now, understand, NO ONE gets to see these cars, even some friends have never seen them unless they are really into cars. He won't waste his time on those who don't care.

There were 4 big buildings of cars, 1 building of Trucks and a Shop building, 2 full time mechanics who do all the work including painting, and over 200 Cars and Trucks, ALL restored and in running condition. EVERY one is started every 2 months, driven at least once a year around the estate, and each had a battery tender on it. All have 5 gallons  of 104 Octane REAL gas with SeaFoam in their tanks and all have all their fluids changed each year. Most had signs telling what the car was and any story involved. Daniel and his 2 guys were very friendly and answered any and all questions we had.

Later during the meet we talked to locals who belong to local car clubs, knew about it but had never seen the collection and knew they never would be invited. This surpasses Jay Leno's by far!

Now I have to give some credit here to my Assistant Carlton Schroeder. He calls  every current and former member from the Club's history, in the state the Meet is in and surrounding states. He also gets free ads in many Publications and on many lists of events.

A week before the meet I got a call at home from an 80 year old retired preacher, who lived a few minutes from the hotel. He had seen one of Carlton's notices in Old Cars and reached out to me. He arranged for us to visit a friends collection of 80-100 cars, mostly just old iron in various stages of decay and some he was working on. Kinda a neat place, great Man Cave Bar! Something for everyone. We decided on Friday afternoon. This was a surprise I had not reveled but was keeping as a treat. Nice to see someone saving and playing with old iron.

Saturday morning we went into Downtown Bentonville for our Show and Peoples Choice Judging. Most soon started to wander around Bentonville and into the Walmart museum. Lots of amazing facts arranged around the walls  and many old collectables. Some went to the American Indian Heritage Museum nearby and greatly enjoyed it.

Our Banquet was held in the hotel with drinks in the Bar. The plated dinner was outstanding, the  service great and all had a good time. The Award that really pleased me was the Peoples Choice for Best of Show which went to Spanky for his 300H driver, which comes to most meets. I thought that was special. A Letter Car being used like it is supposed to be.

After that, we all started the farewells and packing for the trip home. Sadly, the Wilcox's, 80 years old, who drove their Hurst, one of the best I've seen, totaled it 6 miles from the hotel on Sunday morning. They are OK, she hit her face on the dash and got beat up a lot, but are doing fine now. We wish they had called back to the hotel for help, but they rented a car and went home.

Finally, I want to thank those who came, and send all the nice emails to us, thanking us for hosting. Most mentioned the beauty of Arkansas and the friendly folks they met where ever they went. That's a big reason we live here.

I want to point out that you never know what you may miss by saying "I don't think I want to go there" There may be just a great experience! 

So come out and play with us! Meet old friends and make new ones! Maybe see some new cars. Beats reading about it like you are doing now and seeing what you missed..

Ray Jones

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