It all started in 1977 when Steve and Joyce Yates, new owners of a '66 Shelby GT350, attended SAAC-2, the Shelby American Automobile Club's second national convention in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Mesmerized by the parking lot filled with Shelby cars, Steve returned home to Nashville, Indiana, with the dream of staging a similar event in his home state. In May 1978, armed with signs, an SAAC banner modeled after the one at Hershey, and a couple of pots of Indiana chili, the first-ever Shelby Spring Fling took place as a one-day gathering in the rolling hills near Nashville. Some 30 cars made the show at Brown County State Park.
Twenty-eight years later, the Shelby Spring Fling is still a rite of spring for Shelby and Mustang owners in the Midwest. Much has changed over the past three decades: the lodge at Brown County State Park has expanded to include more rooms and cabins, late-model Mustangs now mingle with vintage Shelbys, and the event's founder, Steve Yates, is no longer with us, having succumbed to leukemia in 1995. Joyce is now the matriarch of the Spring Fling, as she oversees the event, guided by the memory and spirit of her late husband and aided by the capable Indiana SAAC board of directors.
While Shelbys, Mustangs, and Fords of all types are the main draw for the Spring Fling, the show is no doubt enhanced by its scenic location. If you think Indiana is nothing more than Midwest flatland, the area around Nashville will change your mind in a nanosecond. Surrounded by luscious greenery and historic homes, Brown County State Park features hiking trails, horseback riding, and log cabins, where many longtime Spring Fling attendees stage cookouts and parties, most of which have become traditional and some even notorious. Wives and girlfriends also enjoy trips into nearby Nashville for shopping at many of the art and gift shops.
This year, as in years past, the Spring Fling kicked off with a Welcoming Bash at the Abe Martin Lodge, where attendees scurried around the room during a unique trading-card swap. Saturday was the Big Day, with the car show drawing nearly 300 cars for popular vote and judged awards, a hot dog and chili lunch, and an evening awards banquet. On Sunday, the show closed out with a Road Rallye and send-off.
Perhaps the best thing about the Spring Fling is that it's a flashback to the Shelby meets of the '70s, when Shelby owners got together primarily for the camaraderie and fun. Maybe that's why the Spring Fling is still going strong after 28 years.
Indiana TrailsOur hats are off to Indiana SAAC's Dan Aiken, who put together one heck of a Pony Trails for us on Friday morning. Some 90 Mustangs and Fords gathered at Brown County State Park to start the cruise through the beautiful Indiana countryside to Greensburg, where the police chief guided us in with lights on and sirens blaring. The city, known for the tree growing out of the courthouse tower's roof, also reserved the town square for Mustangs and Fords, which numbered over 120 by the time we reached the city. We spent over two hours in Greensburg, grabbing lunch at nearby restaurants and hobnobbing with locals, including mayor Frank P. Manus. The City of Greensburg also provided trophies and door prizes for Pony Trails participants.
We did experience one unfortunate incident along the way when a pickup truck turned in front of Ron and Gayle Kaeser, totaling their '86 SVO Mustang and sending the couple to the hospital with cuts and bruises. However, after being checked out, Ron and Gayle rented a car and headed back to Nashville to complete their Spring Fling weekend. Ron admits he wasn't a faithful seatbelt user before the accident, but for some reason he pulled over at the start of the cruise to fasten his belt. Fifteen minutes later, he was thankful he had when he hit the truck head-on at 55 mph. "We wouldn't be here today if we hadn't been wearing seatbelts," Ron says.