Why is the state doing this now?: Ban Approved on Beloved Pigeon Forge Rod Run Tradition

Why is the state doing this now?: Ban Approved on Beloved Pigeon Forge Rod Run Tradition

The days of seeing cars lined up with ‘For Sale’ signs along the Parkway may be numbered

In my 30 years in the area, Rod Runs meant classic cars lining the parkway adjacent spots in Pigeon Forge. Some were there to ogle the classic cars, others were there to trade, dicker and deal. But now, state officials want the city to enforce regulations, meaning sellers couldn’t use signs to advertise their cars.

The state of Tennessee wants the city to enforce restrictions prohibiting advertising, often known as for sale signs, in parking areas during Pigeon Forge Rod Run events. The state rents Parkway neighboring land to the City of Pigeon Forge, which then sublease it to companies. These establishments have permitted unofficial Rod Run participants to park in their lots and occasionally promote their classic automobiles for sale. While the state’s lease with the city contains a term prohibiting such actions, the city’s sublease does not. The state, through the Tennessee Department of Transportation, has asked the city to rewrite the leases and enforce the prohibition.

What is the Pigeon Forge Rod Run?

The Pigeon Forge Rod Runs are biennial events where historic vehicle enthusiasts gather in Pigeon Forge to celebrate car culture. Some attend the official event at the LeConte Center. Others ride the parkway or spend the weekend in designated parking areas along the road. It’s a decades-old custom.

When I first started visiting Pigeon Forge, I remember seeing historic cars and their proud owners sitting nearby in folding chairs. Visitors would stop and discuss the various improvements or whatever. Sometimes money changed hands, and the classic car found a new owner.

Locals have learnt to avoid the strip – and Pigeon Forge in general – if they do not want to partake. Rod Runs typically cause heavy traffic on the parkway. It’s widely regarded as one of the busiest weekends of the year. Woe to the naïve non-car enthusiast tourist who unintentionally planned their vacation around one of the two Rod Runs.

In recent years, the unofficial side of Rod Runs has become a bit wild. After nightfall, there have been more lawless situations, such as public drinking and fights, than in the past. As a result, there was an online campaign to stop the Rod Runs. While it attracted notice, it never gained traction.

When I was a kid, I used to go to the Rod Runs with my stepdad and uncles. They were car guys and it was a lot of fun. But now, I’d rather do something else and avoid the crowds.

Official Rod Run vs Unofficial Rod Run

The official Rod Runs event takes place at the LeConte Center. It’s a ticketed, gated event. There’s a massive swap meet, and car owners show off their pride and joy. There are several awards given out as well as a huge cash prize. The state leasing request will not affect the official Rod Run in any negative way.

The Unofficial Rod Run? It’s essentially the overflow culture. It’s the Rod Run with which I am familiar and described above. People line the Parkway throughout Gatlinburg, parked in the spaces facing the main road. People cruise up and down the strip. It’s a little like the old George Lucas movie “American Graffiti” which celebrates – in part – American Car Culture. If you’re into cool cars and cruising, it’s a good time.

However, as generations have passed, it has become slightly wilder. My first memories are of folks my grandparents’ age sitting in old-style folding chairs next to an automobile from their childhood.People who could recall the automotive culture of the 1950s. Now? It has altered in certain ways, as has everything else in the globe. There’s a little more of a risky vibe, a little more Mardi Gras-style atmosphere. That does not mean it would be dangerous to take your children at night.Having said that, I would encourage you to be more conscious than I was 25 or 30 years ago.

What’s the Rod Run ban?

It is the enforcement of a policy that has been in place between the state and the city since at least 2016. Essentially, the state owns the land and leases it to the city, which then leases it to enterprises. The state-city agreement prohibits parking cars at roadside advertising areas. However, the city’s and the firms’ sublease agreements do not include such regulation. The state has requested the municipal to revise the sublease agreements and then enforce the restriction. The state does not want signs advertising cars for sale all along the strip.

The ban would not hurt the official Rod Run because it’s all inside the LeConte Center space. For instance, a Rod Run official told the Mountain Press that enforcement would likely drive commerce into the official venue.

Why is the state doing this now? I suppose it’s not good enough to say, “It’s the law” and leave it at that. It protects local businesses and – probably billboard owners – from people essentially gaining free advertising space. I could theoretically park in one of those spots with a placard advertising TheSmokies.com instead of buying billboard time. Also, Pigeon Forge has a lot going on most days – visually – a bunch of ragamuffin homemade advertising won’t help. But that’s mostly speculation based on years of sitting in various planning meetings. My guess is TDOT doesn’t want to have to justify why the practice is allowed a couple of times a year when someone tries it on non-Rod Run weekends.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.