SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. -- Large events of any kind have been scarce since March of 2020, especially for automotive enthusiasts. Back in early 2020, we readied our travel plans to include a trip down to the Great Smoky Mountains to check out the big Ponies in the Smokies show, but unfortunately the event was postponed until the following year. That’s exactly why, when we heard that Ponies in the Smokies was green-lighted for 2021, we saved the date on our calendar to head down and check out this fast-growing, extended-weekend event.
Typically at an event such as Ponies in the Smokies (otherwise known as PITS), you can find the Ford Performance Club Connect program set up on-site with our Ford Club Connect Transit and 10x10 Meet & Greet display tent connecting with enthusiasts and show-goers while handing out Ford Performance Mustang posters and freebies. But for this much-anticipated show, we changed it up and dusted-off one of our Carbon Fiber Track Pack Shelby GT500s to make the drive down to Sevierville. The car turned heads at every portion of the show and allowed those who have not yet had a chance to get up-close with the latest and greatest GT500 the opportunity to do so. We took the car to every event -- from the autocross school to the main car show and even the dragstrip. While we did not participate at each of the events with the car, we did get the chance to get the full experience of the PITS event schedule.
On Day One, PITS kicked off with an autocross/driving school at Smokies Stadium. As many Mustang enthusiasts around the country will hopefully get to see and experience, Gateway Mustang was there with their full rig and race-prepped Mustangs to give rookies and racers alike a chance to put their vehicles to the test on a challenging parking-lot autocross course. The fun was slightly dampened by rain, which kept steady through most of the weekend -- yet some drivers took on the additional challenge and participated anyway. In dry weather, we would have seen drifting exhibitions, ride-a-longs and the event’s famous “Shine Run” to English Mountain Dragway on this day, but the rain forced the staff to limit the event for everyone's safety. Kevin Brown, Founder of Ponies in the Smokies, also mentioned that we could see a new venue for the autocross in 2022 (so stay tuned).
After drying off and cleaning up the car from the nine-hour drive down from Michigan, we headed to the main event, Car Show Day, hosted at the Sevierville Convention Center. Here, the weather gods graced the show with a beautiful, 70-degree day along with clear skies and not a drop of rain in the forecast. The show featured 951 participants who were eligible for awards, including Mustangs of every vintage. One of the unique things about Ponies in The Smokies are the two special displays inside the convention center. The first is “The 57,” which is a collection of 57 Mustangs, one from each year of the car’s uninterrupted production. The other was a collection of two-dozen or so Special Service Package (or SSP) Fox Body Mustangs. Outdoors, they hosted a mobile dyno that ran the duration of the show, plus mini-swap meet along with several other Mustang- and Ford-focused vendors.
While the previous day’s events such as the Shine Run and Drag Day were cancelled, some Mustangs headed back out to English Mountain Dragway to get a few passes in on their own while the weather was cooperative after the main show. Of course we tagged along to check out the action. While at the strip, we found several S550 Mustangs, an ’80’s Fox and some Shelby Mustangs making passes down the 1/8th-mile track. Although the crowd and number of racers was not very large, we did get to see two all-motor S550’s battle it out in a grudge race, which made the trip to the strip an entertaining one, especially when they each made sub-7 second eighth mile passes. Once the sun started to set, it was time to wrap it up for the night and prepare for the All-Ford Cruise-In at the Convention Center in the morning.
Cruising into the show on Saturday morning yielded a smaller number of Fords than expected, with a total count of 645 vehicles -- from SVT Lightnings and Cobras to specialty model Mustangs -- due to the weather bringing us yet another round of showers over the entire day. The 57 and SSP Mustang displays were still a draw inside, giving show-goers a great chance to get up-close and personal with all of the display vehicles in the safe and dry convention center. Ponies in The Smokies also gave away dozens and dozens of awards, this year in the shape of a glass jug labeled with “Ponies in the Smokies,” a collector’s item certainly worth showing off in the family home. The show also allowed every vendor that displayed at the show to choose one vehicle from the field (inside or outside) to receive an award.
With this show growing year after year, Ponies in the Smokies has quickly become a bucket-list event for all Ford owners. From the fun-filled scheduled events to meeting new friends from across the country and cruising into after-hours pop-up car meets, the experience here is one not to be overlooked. Kevin Brown, head honcho of PITS also wanted to tell attendees that, “The organizers (aka, The PITS Crew) were grateful that the Mustang faithful came out in full force to support the show, and we look forward to the 2022 edition of Ponies In The Smokies being the biggest yet!” The Ford Performance team will certainly plan to be heading back in future years for this big show in the Smoky Mountains -- maybe with our Club Connect display -- so we hope to see you there!
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / COURTESY MARCUS CERVANTES