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MAY 22, 2024 | John M. Clor


side of green mustang with hood up

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – There’s something special about attending a Mustang and Ford show like Shelbyfest. It offers sort of a “car festival” experience that carries a fun, more youthful vibe than a typical show. A big part of that is because it’s held on downtown streets in the heart of a cool city where shops, eateries, pubs and merchants all embrace the show and its attendees. It’s like going to a town fair – where you can see cars, shop, eat any kind of food, even stop for a cold brew, and stroll along tree-lined, closed-off streets full of cool cars and vendor displays. It’s more like a food and art festival than a car show. Except the art to see here is the cars.

people walking in street of mustangs

Again this year, the Ford Enthusiast Nationals and Shelbyfest completely took over historic Downtown Jefferson City, the picturesque state capital of Missouri. For the Thursday and Friday before the show on the first weekend in May, you could explore the city and its local attractions and cruise the scenic Missouri River Valley. Or if you’d rather go fast, you could sign up for Track Attack sessions and Driver Education Training (plus Parade Laps) managed by our friends from Gateway Classic Mustang on both days at nearby Ozarks International Raceway in Gravois Mills, Missouri. So even before the big show itself you could choose if you wanted to come out and be a track star or a tourist – and fully enjoy both.

front view of white mustang

That Friday night there was a Welcome Reception and Charity Cruise-In at the host hotel, where there was food, drink, and some decent 1970’s-80’s music at the Marriott. We stopped in to watch show organizer Kyle Caraway go up against Aaron Duncan of Duncan Brothers Customs for a “Hot Wings Challenge” in the hotel lobby. (Aaron and Joey Duncan brought two of their latest Mustang creations to display at the event – and parked the popular “FrankenBoss” SEMA concept car next to the Ford Performance display on show day.) As the hot sauces on the chicken wings got hotter, Kyle’s voice got weaker as his face got redder. Although they both survived through the last and hottest sauce in the mix, Aaron seemed to have withstood all the heat a bit better.

side view of purple mustang

Of course, the big attraction here was all of the great cars at the Saturday Show & Shine along the dogwood-lined streets of Downtown Jefferson City. The cars rolled in all morning long, until nearly 600 colorful Mustangs and Fords from more than 17 states had created an angle-parked, blocks-long display area. An estimated 20,000 spectators strolled the streets of downtown on a sunny and breezy day, checking out the show cars, visiting the shops, eateries and pubs and taking in the sights and sounds of the show. That included the annual “Moment of Horsepower” at exactly 12 noon, when all cars were encouraged to start their engines and let them sing – with the glorious revving providing a truly unforgettable audio experience.

front of blue mustangs with hood upFord Performance Club Connect (with help from Mitch and Karen Mitchell from the Show-Me Mustang Club of St. Louis) handed out 600 of our free, commemorative full-color “Mustang 60 Years” mini-posters and more than 1,000 Ford Performance wristbands and Club Connect stickers for all who visited the display just to say “Hi.” Time seemed to fly by at this well-attended street party, but the sun began to fade and dark clouds started to form shortly after a brief awards ceremony at 4 p.m. That’s when the cars were fired up and began rolling off to their respective hotels for going out to dinner or perhaps returning to the host hotel for the Saturday night event banquet. Guest speakers at the host Marriott were “Unbridled” author Robert Kennedy and Dan Neve of “Cruise For a Cause,” plus a behind-the-scenes Super Snake presentation from Shelby American Vice-President Vince LaViolette.

front side view of blue mustang with hood up Ford Performance wrapped things up with a special “Mustang 60 Years” presentation that traced not the “what“ of Mustangs over the past six decades – but the “why.” As in, “why have they been so popular for so long?” We may have taken a jab or two at the Challenger and Camaro in the process -- but hey, they’re no longer around and have no 2024 models on the market so we considered them fair game. We all shared some laughs and hopefully everyone left that night with a new appreciation for this amazing product we call Mustang.

front side view of blue mustang gt

It’s clear that Shelbyfest and shows like it that can take over a whole town have much to offer attendees – no matter their age or gender. While it seems this kind of car show experience provides the type of attractions and activities more geared to a younger audience, the fact is that families, parents with their little children, boys and girls plus teens and young adults came out to enjoy cool Ford Mustangs at Shelbyfest, just as if they’ve been active in the car hobby as much as all the loyal Mustang owners have. Thanks, Shelbyfest, for proving that even 60 years after its debut, the Mustang world can still be fun for everyone.

speaking to crowd of enthusiasts

front of black shelby cobra with hood up

street of people walking looking at mustangs

front of red mustang with hood up

front of red mustang with hood up