2017 Relaxed Atmosphere All Star Event, Millington, TN, July 8-9
By Shawn Brereton
Relaxed Atmosphere (RA) is an international car club started in Southern California, but its laid-back attitude is what has attracted so many people to form chapters around the globe. For years, the All Star Event (ASE) in Millington, Tennessee, hosted by the Memphis chapter has been the flagship gathering for the southern chapters. After two straight years of dealing with the remnants of hurricanes in 2014 and again in 2015, it was time to do something drastic, so show-organizer Jerry Lewis decided not only to change dates, but change venues as well.
The grounds of the U.S.A. Baseball training facility in Millington had been the place to gather every Labor Day weekend until 2015, but the unpredictability of the weather in the Deep South in September, along with traffic congestion within the ballpark grounds lead to the decision to take a year off and scout a new venue and date. Lewis and Memphis RA members loved the city of Millington for how welcoming they were of the show, so they knew they would like to keep it there. So, after looking at a few spots with city leaders, they settled on a perfect location just two miles down the road in Centennial Park.
The park still had one-way access, but tons of room to park and a circular road which made it perfect for cruising. The best part was big oak trees shaded much of the park for the majority of the day. So the venue was set, but the next hurdle was tougher than expected. Moving the date of a well-established show like ASE, isn’t as easy as just picking a date. A show like ASE is a regional show and brings cars and trucks from all over the south, so it was imperative that RA didn’t put their date on top of another show. The easiest way to fix that in the south is to look in July (when no one in their right mind wants to get out of the house), and that is just what they did, settling on the weekend after the July 4th holiday.
On Friday the 7th, it appeared as though it all might have been a bad choice, when a huge rainstorm pounded the grounds. But as they say in the Mid-South, ‘if you don’t like the weather now, wait ten minutes.’ Luckily, Saturday and Sunday were picture perfect days. Yes, it was hot and steamy, but the shade trees and a slight breeze kept things out of the scorching range if you weren’t in the direct sunlight. Cars started rolling in to the slightly waterlogged venue early Saturday morning and the procession didn’t stop until mid-afternoon.
Relaxed Atmosphere was founded during the mini-truckin’ craze of the ‘90s, so the club and this show has always leaned toward trucks. But, as many of the mini-truckers have grown up and have more expendable money to spend, they have branched out across the automotive realm to showcase their creative talents. The All Star Event is open to all makes and models of vehicles, so you could see anything from a motorcycle to a Cummins diesel-powered rat rod and everything in between. 2017 was no exception.
ASE gives out awards for the Top 75 vehicles, but has become known for its custom made specialty trophies. Vendors, RA members, and even friends are called upon to create a one-off work of art for the “Best of” and specialty awards. Evidently, the year off gave everyone time to get extra creative, because they knocked it out of the park. On Sunday, in the past the specialty winners were ushered out onto the warning track of the ballpark, but without that option, it was like Centennial Park was built for it with an old semi-circle in the middle of the show grounds so the winners could be seen by all.
Looking back on the show, it turned out to be a gamble worth taking. As expected the car count was a bit lower than in the past, but sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward, and the date and venue changes were perceived by most everyone as a positive. We here at Gearheads4Life hope that ASE carries on and grows in the new location.