2021 NSRA Street Rod Nationals Adapts to the Pandemic and Thrives

2021 NSRA Street Rod Nationals (1)

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Last year, the National Street Rod Association was one of several organizations who’ve had to postpone or cancel events on their schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the few events to survive the scramble was the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, held annually over four days in the first week of August.

Compared to 2019, when the Nationals celebrated its 50th anniversary with 13,000 participants, about 7,400 rolled into town at the height of summer in 2020.

In 2021, the NSRA returned to the Kentucky Exposition Center, where masks were mandated within state-owned buildings (like the expo center) by Governor Andy Beshear. Yet, it didn’t stop the 8,986 participants from enjoying the organization’s biggest show of the year.

“It’s like I tell everybody,” said NSRA Marketing Director Jim Rowlett. “We got through it last year, and did okay. Did not have any big problems. While [the coronavirus is] the same animal, it’s a different version.”

In light of the upheaval caused by the pandemic, Rowlett said the way the NSRA handles a few things changed to better adapt to the new environment. Registration, for example, was once done in-person at the University of Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium. Now, it’s done at the expo center’s Broadbent Arena.

Another change was the move to start the parade at the expo center, ending at the Paristown Pointe neighborhood bordering The Highlands. The change occurred due to last year’s civil rights protests in Downtown Louisville, which prevented the NSRA from bringing the street rods into Fourth Street Live in the neighborhood’s entertainment district.

“We found a home here [in Louisville],” said Rowlett. “It’s a place to be. We know a lot of the guys now in the media; that helps when you’re trying to promote an event [...] My encouragement to anybody is [to] come out and enjoy the show.”

The 53rd annual NSRA Street Rod Nationals is scheduled for August 4 through 7, 2022. Until then, the organization’s next gathering is their second annual Route 66 Street Rod Nationals at Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, set for August 27 through 29, 2021.

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