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Riding in Style

Riverfront Run Car Show
returns after COVID hiatus

This will be the 10th annual car show
for the Madison, Ind., club



(May 2021) – After a one-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Riverfront Run Car Show is set to make a comeback on Madison, Ind., riverfront. The event is sponsored by The River Rat Rodz Car Club and will be held on May 29 over Memorial Day weekend.
The club began more than a decade ago when a few of local car enthusiasts were together and decided that they would like to have their own club. “We had two main goals: to ride and to eat,” said member Jeff Kernen.
It was and still is a loosely organized group that has no elected officers and no dues. Their focus changed considerably when the group was asked to take over the Madison Memorial Day car show.

Jeff Owen car show

Photo by Ben Newell

Jeff Owen of Madison, Ind., poses with his mother, Marilyn, with their 1928 Model A antique car.


This year is the 10th anniversary of River Rat Rodz’s sponsorship, and during that time, the event has seen explosive growth. A couple that has put in a lot of effort into its success is Bobby and Jeanine Little. Bobby is a Jefferson County, Ind., Commissioner, and anyone who has banked at the German American Bank knew Jeanine before she retired.
“The first year we had 202 cars, and in 2019 we had 477,” Bobby said.
“Anyone who pre-registers can enter the show for $15, but it’s $20 for late comers. This year we will have 28 specialty trophies and a dozen family memorial awards,” said Little. The show attracts a wide variety of vehicles, from the early Model Ts to new high performance cars.
“The show is more than about cars,” Little continued. “Our first event is to remind the public what Memorial Day is all about. We start out at noon with a presentation by the American Legion and with a remembrance of those who gave their lives for our great country.”
Money raised from entry fees and donations goes to provide scholarships for students who are entering trade schools. “We also have made contributions to Shop with Cops and Firefighters, the Madison (Fourth of July) fireworks show and the Heritage Trail,” says Little. Visitors to the riverfront might notice a new large flag pole at Bicentennial Park that was financed by the club and emphasizes its commitment to our country.
“With all the out-of-town guests that the show attracts, it has an impact on the local economy,” Little said.

Bobby Little car show

Photo by Ben Newell

Car club co-founder Bobby Little shows off his 1969 Chevy Super Sport that he spent seven years restoring.


the year that Ford was transitioning from the Model T to the Model A, said Jeff Owen, Bill’s son who has taken over possession of the car. Ford kept the design of their new product secret. Louis was surprised to find that the back seat was totally enclosed in the body instead of being on the outside, like the rumble seat of the T.
An interesting piece of trivia for your next game is that Ford’s models started with the A and over the years progressed to the T. When his new model came out in 1928, Ford decided it was so different that he started over again with the new A.
Jeff Owen has restored it to mint condition. He also displays the original bill of sale for the 96-year-old vehicle. The original price was $573, which was less than the earlier model Ts.
The Owens may have a couple of other cars along the riverfront. They include a 1957 Chevy that Bill likes to drive because of the deep rumbling of its muffler system, and a 1957 T-Bird that was given to his wife, Marylyn, by her brother.   
Jeff and Rhonda Kernen were also in that group that founded the car club 10 years ago. Jeff is a retired Duke Energy employee and a lifelong Madison resident.
The couple owns a 1970 Ford Mustang that Jeff has restored. “I liked the car and also the fact that it matches the year that I graduated from M.C.H.S. When I was in high school, I didn’t have much money and couldn’t afford some of the hot cars that my friends had. In fact, my first car was a 1960 Dodge Siena that cost me 100 bucks,” Jeff said.

JeffKernen car show

Photo by Ben Newell

Jeff and Rhonda Kernen of Madison, Ind., pose beside their 1970 Ford Mustang.


Kernen not only has a love for classic cars but also for motorcycles. He has been all over the country – including Alaska – on his bike.
During the show, Kernen and other of the members help organize and do all the little details that help the event run smoothly. “We used to do all the judging, but with the increase in participation, that became daunting, so now we hire that out to another car club,” Kernen said.
If you’re looking for a laid back event that is sure to conjure up old memories, take a stroll along the Madison riverfront on May 29. The owners of these pristine classics will be there to answer your questions. And if you probe hard enough, they might tell you some hair-raising stories of yesteryear.
For more information, visit the club’s website at www.RiverfrontRunCarShow.com.

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