After taking last year off (like the majority of all things fun and exciting) thanks to the pandemic that was 2020, the annual late-March trip to the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee was back in business! Over 1,000 Mustangs made the trip up to the Sevierville-Pigeon Forge area for the 5th edition of Ponies In The Smokies (March 24-27). Featuring a unique blend of everything from driving events to an indoor car show of over 100 cars inside the 108,000-square-foot Sevierville Convention Center, there was a little bit of something for everyone at the event.
The event (which is traditionally four days long) kicked off a little early with a “fifth” day, which saw the event return to the Quaker Steak & Lube lower parking lot on Tuesday night. The venue had played host to the annual Thursday night “Shine Run Party” for the first three years, but quickly outgrew the limited amount of parking. Still the lot remains a popular stop because of its now famous PITS (Ponies In The Smokies) Wall. An idea that started as some basic graffiti and has now turned into more of a painting thanks to the handy work of local artist Steve Spangler and his “barn door” design, which was set to debut at the 2020 edition of the show. Around 100 early arrivals into town came out to hang out with the PITS Crew in an informal cruise in, dubbed “#PITS American Graffiti Night.”
The show officially kicked off on Wednesday at Smokies Stadium. It was the first stop for the popular shine run, a modified poker run that takes participants to local hot spots like The Dragon, several local distilleries, and a mountain alpine roller coaster while trying to complete the best poker hand. Winners chose from an assortment of prizes based on their rank including a set of Axe Wheels, a weeks vacation, and a ton of prizes from PITS sponsors such as Steeda and National Parts Depot.
Once participants got their card stamped at the Clearshine booth inside the stadium, they headed outside to experience the first driving event of the week. Gateway Classic Mustang hosted the autocross and ride-alongs on Wednesday and Thursday as well as the BFG Driving School on Thursday. Ron and Tim Schoch from Team RSRR was on hand with their Optima Ultimate Street Car Association prepared Mustangs and gave over 200 ride-alongs. TN Drift was also on hand doing drifting exhibitions as well as drifting ride-alongs on Wednesday.
With most all of Thursday being a wash out, including what was to be the first Shine Run Party held at the recently opened Junction 35 Distillery and Restaurant in Pigeon Forge, most of the attention quickly shifted to the Sevierville Convention Center in preparation for Friday and Saturday’s portion of the event. Show car after show car patiently awaited their turn to get in out of the rain and fill out the convention center as dozens of vendors and over 100 equally unique Mustangs filled the convention center floor.
Various special displays lined the inner ring of the convention center, the largest being the Years Of Mustang display, known this year simply as “The 58.” A tradition started in year one at PITS, the goal is to get one Mustang of every year. While this year the PITS crew tackled the hard task of filling all the Mustang II slots (1974-1978) they came up short on one Fox-body (1980) and a 2005 thanks to a last minute no-show. However, both years were in attendance in the outside show. The cars in this display are judged in one of the toughest competitions of the weekend in which only one award per generation is given out along with an overall Best Of Show for the inside.
The SSP Reunion filled the center display as twenty eight Special Service Package Mustangs and one LTD. The cars were a mix of in service condition featuring lights, radios and all the gear all the way to race cars, the fate many of these cars seemed destined for over the years. Shortly before awards, “Bad Boys”, the theme to the popular television show “Cops” played over the sound system as the lights dimmed, giving participants a chance to put on a light and siren show for all the spectators.
The PITS crew are already hard at work planning the 2022 version of the event, the dates are set for March 23rd to March 26th. Car show spots should go on sale sometime in June and will certainly sell out fast after this years sell out, so keep watch and make plans to attend! Check out our huge gallery below for all the photos!