When David and Linda Duncan and Nick and Ann Thompson pulled their Grand Sport Corvettes onto the Newton Square, the couples from Tennessee felt at home.
“We wanted to come and enjoy your town of Newton,” said Ann, who is a councilwoman back home in LaFollette, Tenn., and rides “shotgun” with her husband, Nick. It was the second time the Duncans, who hail from Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Thompsons drove up to Illinois for the Corvette Fest at Mid-America Motors in Effingham. They were impressed with the sincere welcome from Jasper County residents on Sept. 19.
They were also full of humor. The Duncans joked that they “glowed in the dark” by being from Oak Ridge where atomic bomb production and nuclear energy have a history there. And they took it in stride when a seasoned newspaper reporter asked if they needed a translator to understand all the “Northerners” in Newton.
During the ride up Washington Street, they saw people sitting or lined up along that route. They heard compliments from local resident on the colorful procession with many brightly colored Corvettes. Then they caught the aroma of the food vendors serving up all kinds of goodies.
Dave and Nick were smart enough not to put their engines to the test during their visit to Jasper County. The 2019 Grand Sport has 460 horsepower under the hood, while the 2010 Grand Sport can crank out 510 horses. The two Corvette lovers have an ongoing competition with souping up their engines. If they keep going at it they might break the sound barrier someday.
Like many of the Corvette owners visiting last week, the Duncans and Thompsons belong to a Corvette owners’ club. They take pride in their club because it has 458 members, making it the largest Corvette club in the country.
With many of the Corvettes parked on and around the Courthouse Square, some young people were imagining the day they might be driving these iconic American cars.
“They’re all really expensive and very pretty,” said Phoenix Murphy, 12, of Mason, with ties to a local café in Newton, as she looked at her reflection in the windshield of a red Corvette on the courthouse lawn. “Maybe if I follow my dreams I might be driving one in the future.”
Near the corner of Washington and Fayette, the Larson children, Annabele, Emma, Maria, Bethany and Andy, were offering compliments and thumbs-up to the Corvette drivers as they slowly cruised by. Many of the Corvette owners loved it.
Eventually, the parking spaces were all filled on the Square, so some of the Corvettes were parked in the middle lanes on the south and west side. It showed how popular the drive to Newton was for the Corvette owners that day.
Then came the music from the Newton Marching Eagles near the southwest corner of the Square. The Corvette owners had to be impressed with the fine music and the artistry of the flag corps as well. A huge crowd of residents and Corvette visitors gathered to hear the performance that had Mid America Motors founder Mike Yager showing pride in his home community. Yager turned 70 this month so the gathering of Corvettes this year was a birthday event for him as well.
As the Eagles marched off, the Corvette Fest turned into a huge party with food, spirits and the sharing of stories. The event put Jasper County on the map for many Corvette lovers.
Maybe Newton can put up some messages on social media proclaiming, “Yah All Come Back Now!” That request will be understood in Tennessee or from sea to shining sea.