Annual car festival fun for spectators, benefits local charities

Published 6:54 am Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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The fifth annual OBX Rod and Custom Festival is gearing up to take place May 5 and 6.

An event to benefit other local charities, in its short four year history event officials say they have donated $86,000 back to the local community.

“The show is free to spectators,” said Michael Tillett, one of the event founders.

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Tillett, who has a pristine 1985 Monte Carlo SS, hooked up with Richard Quidley, who also has a showpiece in his 1979 Z28 Camaro, to have more than just a routine car show. Tillett said he knew Quidley had experience organizing motorcycle events, they just added two more wheels to come up with a different kind of car show to benefit the community.

Tillett said with help from the Outer Banks Visitor Bureau and several sponsors that the first event in 2019 the goal was to have 200 cars … 519 showed up.

Tillett explained that a $50 early registration fee, or $60 fee at the event, all goes into a pot to be divided between local charities.

“Many of the sponsors have been with us from the very beginning and each year we get more,” said Quidley. “Our sponsors pay for the other items that make the wheels of the event roll.”

And the wheels do roll.

In 2020, to meet COVID restrictions, the festival was spread out to 17 different locations in order to avoid having 100 people at any one location.

“Most participants liked that concept so well that it became part of the show,” said Tillett. “That not only allows more locals to see the car, it allows participants to see more areas of the Outer Banks than if everyone sat at one location.”

Another part of the festival is that the OBX Rod and Custom Festival is not judged.

“Most shows have you sit around in one place from 10 o’clock until 3 o’clock when you hope to get a trophy for the best something,” explained Quidley.

“It’s a non-competitive environment,” added Tillett.

That doesn’t mean there is a total absence of competition.

When registration opens on New Year’s Eve the first person to register gets a $500 custom painted toolbox. So it’s a race to be number one. Then, during the event another $500 custom painted toolbox goes to the winner of a scavenger hunt and yet another box to a wild card poker run winner.

Overall the chance to win one of several toolboxes has become a popular draw, and not a bad return on the early bird $50 registration fee or even the regular $60 fee if you happen to get one.

Another is the casual atmosphere and that this event takes place at several sites with participants free to come and go as they please rather than being required to sit in one spot for six hours.

“It’s like a breath of fresh air for car owners,” Tillett explained. “This one is just friends and fellowship.”

Tillett went on to say a large number of participants are full time car show people, either retired or independently wealthy, with cars worth from $150,000 to $200,000 if not more.

That doesn’t mean every car has a high value. Each year has seen cars of all types, including some needing restoration and others in the progress of restoration. One year even had a car that had to be pushed on and off the trailer.

Last year they ended up with cars from 27 states in Canada, one year that even had a participant from Finland.

This year the 2023 preregistration had 100 people in less than 30 minutes. When registration closed there were 534 cars on the roster.

In addition to several display locations where locals can ogle over the assortment of vehicles on display, some of the organized activities include:
– A Saturday Beach Road cruise from Kitty Hawk Elementary School to the Nags Head Event Site.
– A wild card poker run to five area locations Friday and Saturday.
– Scavenger hunt to find answers to several trivia questions.
– Toolbox raffle.

Along with Tillett and Quidley, the non-profit charity includes Brenda Quidley, who prints all the t-shirts, and Sarah Hole, who handles social media and advertising duties.

According to Hole, the list of charities they give to grows each year. So far it currently includes:
• Children and Youth Partnership for Dare County
• Dear County Motorsports Charity Group
• Dear County Food for Thought Program
• Hatteras United Methodist Church Toy Drive
• Roanoke Island Food Pantry
• Hyde County Christmas Cheer Fund
• Virginia Tillett Elizabeth City State Endowment Scholarship Fund