Rolling Forward

The ACD Festival’s 62nd year keeps with tradition while building new memories.
Oct 8, 2018
Heather Herron

In the days and weeks after the annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, Executive Director Amber Jackson has simply been trying to get caught up. 

“I’m getting laundry done, cleaning the office, stuff like that. And just trying to rest and recuperate. I think in the three weeks leading up to the the festival I averaged about four hours of sleep a night,” laughs Jackson. 

She won’t take much of a break, though. There’s too much work to be done for next year. 

“When you have momentum, you don’t want to lose that,” Jackson says. “We try not to waste time and just jump right into next year. Sometimes multiple conversations have to happen to make sure sponsors are getting the best fit.”

This was the 62nd year for the ACD Festival, which runs alongside the world-famous car auction and brings tens of thousands of people to the small town during the week leading up to Labor Day.

“Last year was my first year as executive director, so I didn’t really know what to expect. This time I feel like there was more pressure because the expectations had changed and I really wanted to knock it out of the park,” Jackson says. 

By all accounts, she and the other board members and volunteers did just that. They added five new events this year, and Jackson says she saw a lot of growth and unprecedented community involvement. 

“It’s one of those weekends every year that Auburn and surrounding communities just love. It’s a classy event, great cars, great people, great food,” says Jackson. 

None of it would be possible without the support of local businesses like title sponsor Steel Dynamics, and new stage sponsors 3Rivers Federal Credit Union and Peter Franklin Jewelers, who signed on for the first time this year.

“I thought being part of the classic car show was a nice fit for us,” says Peter Franklin co-owner Peter Ball. “We sell pre-owned Rolexes and I have the mindset that high-end watches and classic cars kind of go hand-in-hand.”

It was also a perfect place to debut Ball’s new mobile retail store, which is housed in a classic 1971 Airstream. 

“I didn’t have a clue what to expect. But we really enjoyed interacting with crowd. People were extremely friendly,” says Ball. “We’ve already signed on to come back as a sponsor again next year.”

On Thursday evening, community leaders and local celebrities engaged in some friendly competition at a new event called Dancing with DeKalb Stars, which raised money for Riley Children’s Hospital. 

On Friday, the signature Cruise-In took place. 

“There’s nothing else like it (the Cruise-In) on this scale,” Jackson says. “Not only are there ACDs, but also the best of classic cars, hot rods, muscle cars, personal projects. It attracts thousands of people simply because it’s an open Cruise-In. We try to meet people where they are in terms of their interests. And we’ve worked hard to provide things that entire families could do together, like a movie night and a glow party for kids while they await the fireworks.”

Friday night was the biggest night in the festival’s history, according to the board, which is still adding up attendance totals. An estimated 12,000 people surrounded the stage and courthouse for Friday’s festivities & Cruise-In Concert featuring Chris Worth and Hubie Ashcraft.

During Saturday’s parade, ACD Club members from all around the world drove their classic cars through the streets of Auburn and then put them on display in the courthouse square. And while celebrating the cars of the past, spectators also got the chance to see the classics of the future. Dream Makers Automotive and the CIR Porsche Club of America hosted Fast and Fabulous, which was an exhibit featuring exotic and luxury modern masterpieces like Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, Porsches and more.

The parade was followed by the free Fast and Fabulous concert, which showcased the region’s best bands including Casual Friday, The Voice’s Addison Agen – who also served as the festival’s grand marshal – and Auburn hometown favorite Big Caddy Daddy.

Jackson says she has thoroughly enjoyed her role as executive director and has big plans for the future. She loves meeting and working with like-minded people who want to continue to uphold and enhance the tradition that brings people from all over the world to a small town in northeast Indiana.

“I met folks from Australia and Ireland,” remarks Jackson. “It’s pretty cool to see people who travel so far to be here. Some families come back year after year and even make this a sort of family reunion. It makes all of the planning worth it.” 

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