Health Metro Louisville

As Kentucky and the nation continue to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, more than 15,000 classic car owners and enthusiasts are expected to attend the National Street Rod Association event at the state fair grounds in Louisville this week.

Organizers and government officials say the event will be safe because most of it will be held outside and participants will be required to follow guidelines to try to prevent spread of the virus.

Terry Craven is a retired GE engineer who is showcasing his 1955 Chevrolet truck at the event.

“I think if we’re smart, we can be safe. If we’re not smart, then we’ve got an issue,” Craven said.

This will be the 26th year that the Street Rod Nationals has taken place in Louisville.

This year, attendees will be required to wear face coverings if they attend events inside the state exposition center building or in situations outside where 6-foot social distancing can’t be maintained.

Organizers said that hand sanitizing stations will be dispersed throughout the event and that there will be signage reminding people to follow guidelines.

Organizers are trying to be flexible to address problems if they arise during the event, said David Beck, president of Kentucky Venues, which manages the Kentucky Exposition Center.

“In this day and time, it’s not necessarily the fittest that survive, it’s those that can adapt to change,” Beck said.

The plan to hold the event during the coronavirus pandemic was approved by Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration in June as long as organizers and attendees followed social distancing and other requirements.

But Beshear said on Tuesday that people traveling from COVID-19 hotspots—which he defines as states that have testing positivity rates that are greater than 15%–need to take extra precautions, or not come at all.

“For those coming in from out of state, if they are coming from any of these places they really need to get tested before they leave. Don’t travel from any state to any other state,” Beshear said.

“It’s primarily outside which is good, but we need to make sure we’re seeing people wearing facial coverings and in Kentucky, it is required.”

The number of new coronavirus cases in Kentucky spiked in July and has plateaued in recent weeks, according to Beshear’s office.

The state’s positivity rate—the number of coronavirus tests that come back positive compared to all tests—was 5.24% on Thursday. Federal officials recommend precautions like closing bars and limiting restaurant capacity at 5%.

Karen Williams, president of Louisville Tourism, said she hoped the event would provide a boost to the city’s hospitality industry, which has struggled during the pandemic.

“The hotels, the restaurants, the gas stations. There’s such a trickle-down effect for this event,” Williams said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer expressed concern about the event last week, but said attendees just need to follow requirements.

“If you are disciplined there are ways to do these things, but you have to be disciplined. Certainly we’re concerned about that,” Fischer said.

The Street Rod Nationals will take place Aug 6-9 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.