If your idea of a perfect time is Pontiacs, Pontiacs, and more Pontiacs, there was only one place to be on August 3-5, 2012, and that was the 21st annual Ames Performance Tri-Power Pontiac Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

As in past years, promoters Pete and Andrea Woodruff brought together one of the Pontiac hobby’s biggest summertime events. Let’s start with the numbers. A total of 918 race and show cars participated, and 11,000-plus spectators walked through the gate.

“The show also featured the largest swap meet in the event’s history,” Pete says. “There were 197 vendors–that’s up 15 from 2011—set up on 377 spaces, which is up 50 from the previous year. The swap meet has always been a significant component of our event, and we are very proud to see it grow into the largest Pontiac swap meet in the country!”

Beginning on Friday, August 3, and throughout the next day, the Summit Motorsports’ west field filled with Pontiacs of myriad years, models, colors, and styles. Two Pontiac organizations also held outings there: The Little Indians Chapter of POCI, which lives and breathes ’61-’63 Tempests and LeMans; and the Firehawk Association of America, which celebrates Street Legal Performance’s (SLP) hopped-up Third- and Fourth-Gen Formula and Trans Am (and G8 Firehawk) performance cars.

High Performance Pontiac magazine hosted Pontiacs On Parade for the second year running. Editor Tom DeMauro says, “This display-only portion of the event has proven popular once again, as even more high-quality Pontiacs filled the row along the back fence, and even extended to a second row at the end of the show field. Pontiacs On Parade offers a low-pressure way for participants to show off their rides, and HPP is happy to sponsor it.”

Traditionally the Pontiac Nationals holds one or more special events, which makes it unique from the year before and the year to come. For 2012, it was a celebration of Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick’s six decades in drag racing! There were former Beswick race cars on display, and he kept busy all three days signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans. (We’ll show you the original and re-created Beswick race cars that attended in Part 2 of our Pontiac Nationals coverage, in the next issue.)

Celebrities were on hand too, like Pontiac ad-man Jim Wangers, PHS-Online’s Jim Mattison, and ’66 Knafel Pontiac “Tin Indian” GTO-owner Merle Green and legendary racer Arlen Vanke.

On Saturday night, Ames Performance hosted the Ames Hospitality buffet, and over 900 showgoers chowed down on all-you-can-eat half-pound hamburgers and hot dogs, salads, desserts, and refreshments.

At the buffet, guests received a raffle ticket in five colors. Ames owner Kevin Beal explains: “I pick one of the five colors, and every paid show-entrant with that colored raffle ticket gets his or her entry fee refunded. For some, that can be as much as $65 back in their pockets.”

Ames also awarded grand prizes to nine lucky guests, who then each chose one of 15 special items in Ames’ retail catalog to call his or her own. “Our goal is to give back to the Pontiac hobby,” Beal continues. “They’ve supported us throughout the year, and our Saturday night dinner—make that the whole Ames Performance three-day-weekend for that matter—is our way of saying, “Thank you, everybody.”

Sunday’s car show was short lived, as early-morning heavy rains turned the event into a soggy swampland, sending many Pontiacs back to their trailers and car covers. “Because of the number of cars within a two-hour drive of Norwalk, the rain also forced folks who had planned to drive to the event on the last day to change their plans and not join us,” Pete Woodruff says.

At approximately 3 p.m. on Sunday, the Woodruff’s handed out over 125 trophies, including five Ames Performance Best In Class awards, and First through Third Place accolades in 60-plus classes.

“We feel really good about where this event is right now,” Pete Woodruff concludes. “Its size and scope is unparalleled, the social aspect is huge, and attendance figures are solid and steadfast.”

Next month, High Performance Pontiac will continue our coverage of the 2012 Pontiac Nationals with a look at the drag-race portion of the program and Arnie’s race cars.

The 22nd Annual Pontiac Nationals are scheduled for August 2-4, 2013. For more info, visit www.pontiacnationals.com.