There is nothing like a car show on a nice summer day. You walk up and down past endless beauties and don’t have to be shy about coveting each one. The gleam from the hood of a cherry red ’54 Chevrolet 210 DeLuxe catches your eye. “My dad had one of these when he was a kid,” you inform its owner, who is wearing either a car T-shirt or a Hawaiian shirt and almost certainly has a salt and pepper goatee. He gives you a tour of an engine so clean you could eat off it. This is paradise.
Buggies N Blues is the Bismarck-Mandan area’s big annual car show. Held right in downtown Mandan, it’s where you can admire more than 500 classic cars, trucks, and tractors, as well as enjoy live music, festival food, and more.
“Cars built after the ’90s are all plastic and have nothing special about them,” said Del Wetsch, executive director of the Mandan Progress Organization. “What’s great about Buggies N Blues is that our cutoff is 1986, with some exceptions for custom jobs, so you get to see all the cars you grew up with. It’s the best chance I have to find a ’63 Chevy Impala like I had back in high school!
“Buggies N Blues features a lot of what we call ‘celebrity cars.’ In previous years we have had the hearse from The Munsters, the car from The Fast and the Furious, and even a DeLorean done up to look like the time machine from Back to the Future. This year we’re featuring the cars of American Graffiti.
“We added antique tractors about four or five years back, not knowing how popular they would become with everyone. We’ve seen a lot of old-time farmers connect with their grandchildren over classic John Deeres and Farmalls.
“You won’t go home hungry when you’re here — Buggies N Blues is a gastronomic experience. Big Boy comes in from Bismarck to serve their classic drive-in food. Jack’s Steakhouse serves steak on a stick, Tony Wong offers Chinese food, and Norm’s Eatery makes the best burgers in town. There are smaller vendors with homemade lemonade and copper kettle corn, and the mini donuts are always a big hit. You can count on them!”
Whether you own a ’55 Buick Century or an ’05 Buick Century, you’re bound to find something you want at the Buggies N Blues swap meet. On an entire cordoned off block there are endless car parts, collectibles, signs, memorabilia, and other things that cool car people like. One vendor who is skilled with glass and gas makes custom neon signs to honor every fandom in the automotive world. The swap meet also hosts tire dealers, detailers, and other pros that local motorists should know.
Buggies N Blues without music would just be “Buggies,” which sounds awkward. When the gate opens to the public at 3pm on the first day, two important things happen. First, the Jesse Faye Band begins to play their original songs. Second, the beer garden opens up to serve all the big domestics that summer festivals can not be summer festivals without. (It is a rare occasion when the city of Mandan actually invites you to enjoy a beer on their downtown streets.) Moments Notice will kick off the first day’s big block party at 7pm. The lead singer of the Minot-based rock and blues band has probably ordered more drinks while singing George Thorogood songs than he has at actual bars.
At 8pm downtown Mandan becomes a flash of chrome and headlights as all the cars begin parading down Main Street. Exactly which two cars are to be honored by leading the pack is hotly debated by local car club members for months in advance. All we know for now is that two cars from the Ford and Mustang clubs will be chosen!
The very first Buggies N Blues was held in 1993. It has been around for so long that it might soon become older than some of the classic cars it features. The big event will take place on the weekend of June 6th and 7th, and admission on Sunday is free. For times and more information on this year’s events, please visit buggies-n-blues.org.
By David Scheller