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Sugar Valley Rally celebrates silver anniversary
May 30, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Photo by Ken Kurtz/Spectrum Photo - Last year's Sugar Valley Rally featured a great line up of classic cars from the twenties era.

In 1988, two local men on separate vacations each came up with an idea to promote the area – a classic car rally. That idea is now 25 years old.

“It was 1988 and my family was coming back from a vacation in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area,” said Dan Dickinson, one of the co-founders of the Sugar Valley Rally. “About 20 miles out of Reno, we started passing these old Model T’s, A’s and beautiful vintage cars on the Interstate. They were part of the Great Race.”

The Dickinson family spent the night in Elko, Nev. and the Great Racers made a stop in the city park. Dan spoke with some of the event’s organizers and got some business cards.

About the same time, future rally co-founder Fred Stoltenberg was returning from swap meet in Colorado and came through Cheyenne while the Great Racers made a stop there.

“The following Monday, within about 20 minutes of each other, we both walked into Joyce Hillman’s office at the Chamber of Commerce,” Dickinson said. “We asked what we could do to organize a local vintage car rally. Fred had the connections with the old car community in the area. I’d already made the corporate contact with the Great Race, so it was perfect for us to work together.”

Dickinson took care of sponsorships and the corporate end of the organization as they were officially sanctioned by the Great Race. “The Great Race people thought it would be a great idea to have a smaller rally for drivers to practice before entering the longer Great Race, which starts soon after ours,” Dickinson said.

Since its first run in 1899, the Sugar Valley Rally has grown into the second largest classic and antique car rally in the nation, behind the Great Race.

Some years have had as many as 90 participants, many of whom were Great Racers. On average, between 50 and 70 cars participate each year. The 25th annual run has 66 official participants.
One of the participants will be driver Jim Menneto and navigator Mari Parizo from Hemmings Motor News. The national publication is a go-to source of information for classic and antique car enthusiasts. Menneto, from Bennington, Vt., will also be the guest speaker at the rally banquet.

Dickinson, who served as the media coordinator for Sugar Valley Rally, said the event wouldn’t be possible without the numerous volunteers and sponsors who give of their time to make it happen.
“It takes about nine month of planning for the next event,” he said. “With social media and other electronic media, it’s a lot easier to get the latest information to the drivers so they can plan ahead. As far back as the ‘90s, we mainly sent letters and flyers. But now we’re reaching a wider audience.”

Many drivers have returned year after year for the event. Pete Wylie has brought his 1931 Hupmobile to the event every year. Other families from Kansas and New Mexico have also been long-time participants and they often bring several cars, with the entire family participating.

“People like the small town, hometown atmosphere they experience here,” Dickinson said. “And they love the people. They’ve told me they can’t help but like everything about us.”
The tradition continues on Friday, May 31 with a practice rally to Kimball. Rally cars will also be out on the highways Saturday and Sunday.
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