The Atlantic Nationals annual automotive extravaganza in Moncton, New Brunswick draws humans who love cars, and even a hot-rod dog or two.
I’ve just parked my car in downtown Moncton, New Brunswick. The main drag and several side streets are decked out with hundreds of cars ranging from street rods to muscle cars, customs, special interest vehicles and antique autos.
Within sight are teens and bikers with tattoos, a crowd of giggling girlfriends, guys in suits, parents with toddlers in tow and lots of seniors. They’re typical of the thousands of people who visit the Atlantic Nationals here in Moncton — an annual automotive extravaganza that draws over 1800 cars and 130,000 spectators. Everyone’s wearing a perpetual grin.
I notice a small group gather in front of a 1931 Ford Panel. But it’s not the rat rod that grabs their attention; it’s a small dog with a moustache and goatee, sitting in a chair, next to the owner of the car, Norm Goutreau.
“Is that a stuffed toy?” someone asks.
“No, it’s a dog,” says Norm.
“Can’t be real,” a voice says.
Chico and Norm attend about 20 car shows a year and before long I get the low-down on the difference between a rat rod, rebel rod, street rod and hot rod, a.k.a. muscle car. The mix of all these cars, along with some spiffy antique autos is quite a sight.
After Friday’s main street display and closing street dance, the entire shebang moves to Centennial Park for two days of car exhibitions, seminars, demos, music, a scale model contest—and more. Aside from being the premium car show in North America, it also has the largest prize pool on the continent. Bonus: There’s a free shuttle bus between the park and major malls/hotels between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Point of interest: This entire event is organized and managed by volunteers. After expenses, profits go back into the community. In fact, that’s how the Centennial Park (featuring an automotive-themed “Splash Park”) was created in the first place.
While wandering around the grounds, you’ll likely meet Peter Atkinson, owner of a green 1951 Monarch and ‘79 Boler travel trailer. Peter says, “My car and I have enjoyed a lot of firsts over the years including first date, first bee sting, first of many honeymoons—with my first and only wife.” Last year, Peter’s daughter Crystal took the Monarch and Boler on her honeymoon. The original owner of the Monarch may have been Mr. Eaton who had it stored at the Eaton Department store for use when he came to Moncton. Every car owner here has a story.
John Jones bought a 1939 Graham several years ago. It was a veritable wreck but after 2,500 hours of TLC the car morphed into a showstopper. With the exception of one season, John and his wife, Cindy, have been travelling from Orland, ME, to attend the Nationals since the event started in 2001. Asked what draws them to Moncton, John comes back with a question. “Where can you go to have a great time, see lots of amazing vehicles, meet the nicest people and know that the proceeds are doing a lot of good in the Maritimes?”
Then he answers his own question by adding: “The Nationals in Moncton!”
PS. You’ll want to add an extra day or two to do other things like visit the Magnetic Hill Zoo (the largest zoo in Atlantic Canada); Chocolate River Station in Riverview (with outlets for Olivier Soapery, Ganong Chocolates and Rocky Mountain Maple); and the historic Capitol Theatre (home to Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada’s Phantom the Ballet this summer).
All photos © Sandra Phinney