Carmen Lee Goes To The Symco Shakedown

From time to time when I cannot make it to a show I call on someone who could to bring you a look at the show. So I am in your shoes reading along wishing I was there too. So without further ado, I bring you the Symco Shakedown as seen by Carmen Lee



The Symco Shakedown, a.k.a. ‘Summer Camp for Hot Rodders’, was the show that started it all for me years ago; the first time I ever vended with my Big Star Vintage booth and the first pinup contest I ever participated in. The show is in its sixth year and going strong. Last year I heard there were around 8,000 attendees and this year I think there were even more. The Shakedown takes places in the small, unincorporated town of Symco, Wisconsin which is almost in the middle of nowhere about an hour from where I live. The grounds remind me of a ghost town complete with cobblestone streets lined with streetlamps and numerous old buildings such as a blacksmith shop, church, post office, bank and more. It is the perfect setting for vintage cars and the show lives up to its motto of “feeling like you are walking along main street in 1964 or earlier”.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon to set up vending and you could already feel the excitement of those gathering early to set up and also to camp. Another unique aspect of Symco is the vintage camping section along the Little Wolf River where people can camp with a tent or a 1970s or older camper. It adds nicely to the nostalgia of the grounds. The show officially opened on Friday August 8th, we got there bright and early and ate some tasty pancakes and eggs as they always serve breakfast on the grounds. When you enter the main gate you pass through a huge swap section with items ranging from car parts to vintage housewares. After walking through the swap you come to the main drag and can see vendors and cars lining the street; including some rare and unrestored ‘survivor hot rods’ from the 50s and 60s. When you reach what I like to think of as the heart of Symco, you find the Burger Barn where they serve food and beverages, the blacksmith shop where my vending booth was located and where the Rat Bastards car club of Fox Valley was raffling off an engine, and the Dance Hall; full of vendors and a stage for bands. There are actually quite a few stages for bands and there were so many great bands that day, one of my favorites being JP Cyr and His Radio Wranglers. I really did feel I had stepped back in time sitting on a rickety wooden bench in the Dance Hall, seeing an old man eating corn on the cob and hearing the western swing music dance through the air. Later that evening we headed to the other side of the grounds to catch the legendary Voodoo Larry and his band Lil’ Red and The Howlin’ Wolves (and of course I had to get a photo of him with my first ever magazine cover since his car was on the cover with me!). Voodoo Larry and his band rocked the joint as the crowd spilled out of the building and people were even watching through the windows on all sides surrounding the stage. We ended the night early to rest up for another long day of vending on Saturday.

Saturday was also full of great bands, one of my favorites being the Surf Zombies out of Iowa. I also got a fun tour of the grounds on a golf cart with Judd’s Custom Photos, which is another great aspect of Symco; the fact that David Judd is set up to take photos of cars and people and is able to print out any sized photograph you want right there on the grounds. The coveted spot to photograph cars is the front of the old IGA store (where you can also buy pie and ice cream!). Later in the evening on the way down to the barn stage we happily came across the flame throwing for the night; which was a spectacle in itself as cars took turns driving down the mini bike drag strip and throwing flames surrounded by a sea of oohing and aahing spectators.  Towards the end of the flames on the barn stage was the band that seems to be the traditional band to end the night at many car shows; the ever popular Krank Daddies headed by Chops McClintock. The audience swayed to the high octane fueled rockin’ under what seemed like a full moon as Chops shouted ‘Pedal to the Metal, Go Go!’ and as we called it a night.

We headed back early Sunday morning to pack up vending and I admit I was a bit sad seeing my empty vending space and most of the cars and people cleared out. Symco is really something special; a sight to behold and a place to meet up with your car show family and friends. I know myself as well as many others already can’t wait for next year!

Photo by Judd’s Custom Photos
Photo by Judd’s Custom Photos
Photo by Judd’s Custom Photos

Thanks Carmen Lee for the story and the photos and also to Judd’s Custom Photos for yours as well!

Follow Carmen Lee on Facebook here. or on the official site here

Follow Judd’s Custom Photos here.

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