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25 Years of Thrills at Kool Deadwood Nites

By: Molly Barari

By now, you’re probably aware that Kool Deadwood Nites happens every August in Historic Deadwood. But each year, new thrills await those who attend, making the event bigger and better than before. This year, the event celebrates its 25th anniversary and promises to be the best one yet.

To celebrate 25 years, Kool Deadwood Nites is bringing back its classic car competitions, auction, rod runs, poker runs and a parade to showcase all the vintage cars in town. What’s even better? If you attend, you’ll get to chill out, too, with fun and relaxing concerts every night and opportunities to explore the beautiful Black Hills in your free time. Plus, you’ll meet car lovers from all over the world that come to Deadwood for the event – and nothing at Kool Deadwood Nites is better than the great people.

This year’s Kool Deadwood Nites takes place August 22-25, and the schedule is jam-packed. Whether you prefer the thrills – or just chilling – Kool Deadwood Nites has an event for everyone.

Attendees can start registering their cars on Thursday at Deadwood’s Welcome Center at 501 Main St. A special section of parking is reserved for registered cars in the Lower Main Street parking lot.

Like last year, voting for the People’s Choice Awards takes place on Thursday from 4-9 p.m. and the results are always thrilling! This year’s People’s Choice winners will be announced at 10 p.m. Thursday on Main Street.

Rod runners should rev their engines, as the 12th Annual Denny Menholt Rapid Chevy Rod Run will take place Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., attendees can meet professional race car driver Brad Sweet at the Welcome Center parking lot.

There are also poker runs happening on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. across the Black Hills. From noon until 10 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, Tin Lizzie will host a Kool Deadwood Nites party to celebrate 25 years of delightful memories – with poker run awards starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Tin Lizzie event will include food tents, live music, event merchandise, and plenty of beer to go around. For those who are interested in meeting NHRA Funny Car racer Ron Capps, they can enjoy a meet-and-greet event at the Welcome Center parking lot from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday. 

The KDN Parade is a crowd-favorite and begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, followed by a Show & Shine from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The official KDN Awards will be given at 11 a.m. following the parade. It’s always a thrill to see who wins!

We can’t forget about the awesome entertainment. The Main Street free entertainment this year will showcase Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone on Thursday, the Kingsmen on Friday, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds on Saturday. The Sunday night concert will take place at the Deadwood Mountain Grand at 8 p.m., and tickets are required. The bands on the tour this year include the Turtles, Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night), Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Buckinghams, the Classics IV, and the Cowsills. 



The annual Kool Deadwood Nites Auction has become a star attraction of its own. It’s happening on Friday and Saturday at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center, starting at 9 a.m. each day with the memorabilia auctions. The classic car auctions start at 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. McPherson Auction & Realty Company of Rapid City presides over the auction, which celebrates its 21st year at Kool Deadwood Nites.

The auction features 100 classic cars on sale each day, as well as memorabilia, signs and more. Auctioneer Kevin McPherson said each year, up to 3,000 people from around the world attend the auction.

Those participating in the auction will check in between noon and 5 p.m. on Thursday. For more information on participating, call McPherson Auction & Realty at 605-484-1781.


The 2018 KDN Best of Show award went to Gary Gilbert for his 1933 Ford 3-window Coupe model 40 street rod. Gilbert, 75, is a farmer who lives near Huron, S.D., and re-building classic cars has been his hobby since 1959.

Gilbert started working on the Ford back in 2010 and completed the work in 2015. The car features suicide doors and Redneck body work. Gilbert did most of the assembly on the car himself, except for the paint and upholstery.

Perhaps what stands out the most about the car is its color – a shade Gilbert jokingly refers to as “root beer tangerine.”

“To place first out of 700 cars is absolutely overwhelming,” said Gilbert. “Thousands of hours of work went into it, and it’s great to have people appreciate what you did.” Gilbert was the runner-up the year before he won, which made earning the top award even sweeter.

“This hobby is my passion,” he said, “and I look forward to coming back to Deadwood this year for Kool Deadwood Nites and to explore the Black Hills.”

The first ever Best of Show winner – an honor given 25 years ago – was awarded to Ed Grensteiner for his 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air. Ed has since passed away, but his son, Jason, is carrying on the tradition and bringing the car to Kool Deadwood Nites this year. The orange and white ’56 Chevy will be on display along with Gilbert’s ‘33 Ford to celebrate Kool Deadwood Nites’ 25th anniversary – and the two classic cars will also appear on 25th anniversary t-shirts that will be sold this year in Deadwood.


For a full schedule of events, visit, or call the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-999-1876. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating 25 years!


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