This year the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds at Springfield, Mo., hosted the event the first weekend of October. Nearly 1,400 participants took part with nearly 20,000 visitors attending.
DuQuoin hosted the event in the 1980s and '90s when as many as 100,000 attended and boosted the economy anywhere from $3 to $15 million depending on the year.
However, there are reasons why DuQuoin no longer hosts the event. For those who don't remember, the Street Machine Nationals has what could be described as a colorful history since its start in Indianapolis in 1977.
Matthew King of Car Craft magazine and website explains:
Throughout most of its 25-year history, uncontrolled burnout contests held anywhere, anytime, were the norm; shirts were optional for men and women; and the highlight of one of the first Nationals held in Indianapolis was a riot that resulted in a police car going up in flames.
That's right. Launched during the high point of the Pro Street movement in 1977, the goings-on at the Street Machine Nationals mirrored the essence of the era's over-the-top proclivities as reported on by this magazine. The disco era was in full swing and so were fat tires, chromed blowers soaring through holes in hoods, and gaudy pastel paint jobs emblazoned with garish graphics.
I don't think there were any riots in DuQuoin, but a lot of trash and a lot of flash. When it finally left, few community leaders wept.
Car Craft no longer hosts the event. The Promotion Company does. Even better, the event has "mellowed," become "wiser," and generally, "older, tamer, and less out of control" according to King.
Vice President for Marketing Matthew Louck told the Southern Illinoisan that if they return, the organizers are looking at the possibility of a spring date, rather than just a fall one. But first, he says, some type of exploratory committee needs to be formed to work out details between the organizers, the city and the fairgrounds.
Fair Manager John Rednour Jr., believes those details can be worked out.
"We just have to figure out how to do it without it being a problem to the city and I think we can do that," Rednour said.
Rednour has previously talked of keeping spectators on grounds throughout the two-day event. When the Street Machines were in Du Quoin before, attendees had to leave the fairgrounds at 5 p.m. and would then filter out in the community, which was the source of many problems associated with the event.
If it returns it would not only be a boost to DuQuoin, but surrounding counties as well. It could easily be a sell-out weekend to hotels not only for the host city but in communities in the arc from Carbondale to Marion and up to Mount Vernon.
Whether the street machines return or not in a couple of years, fans will be able to read about the DuQuoin years. Toby Brooks, author of a new book about the 1948 Illinois State League Champion West Frankfort Cardinals, is currently working on a book about the Street Machine Nationals during their years in DuQuoin.
Meanwhile, there's a "Bring the Street Machine Nationals Back to DuQuoin" Facebook page. So far, more than 3,500 fans and clicked that they "like" it.