CAIRO -- It started after Cairo won an award from the Great American Race for its hospitality.

In 1986, local antique car enthusiast Wayne Hadden saw an article that mentioned the race's participants would make a lunch pit stop in Albany that year.

They were also to spend the night in Tallahassee.

Hadden convinced the race participants to also stop in Cairo for the afternoon.

By 1989, the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce started Grady County's own antique car tradition -- the annual Great Southern Antique Car Rally.

The event was marketed within a 100-mile radius of Cairo.

"We thought we'd forget the competition," Hadden said. "Let's have fun and drive them. We put the emphasis on fellowship and driving and enjoying the cars -- not on trophies."

This year's car rally starts May 13 and ends May 14. It will feature muscle cars, though all antique, classic and street rod cars are welcome.

All the cars will be displayed at Davis Park off Third Avenue in Cairo on the May 14 from noon to 2 p.m.

A parade and street dance will be open to the public at 8 p.m. on May 13. A band that plays mostly country, called "Just Us," will provide entertainment.

In the meantime, registered participants can partake of other events such as a barbecue supper on May 13 and breakfast on May 14.

They can also drive their cars on a 60-mile tour through Grady County, as well as play a hand of cards in a May 14 poker rally. Prizes and cash awards will be given at 3 p.m. that day.

About 140 cars usually participate in the opening day parade. Participants come from cities such as Orlando and Daytona Beach in Florida, to Ozark, Ala., and Tifton and Albany in Georgia.

Sandy Reagan, executive vice president of the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce, said cars have even traveled from New York and Ohio in previous years to participate in Cairo's rally.

A local couple that attends the rally every year is Randolph and Janie Brock of Thomasville.

"We enjoy going on the tours," Randolph Brock said. He has driven a 1964 Studebaker station wagon in the rally before, as well as a 1936 Dodge Business Coupe.

As of Monday, about 55 cars were pre-registered. The oldest registered car was a 1925 Model T Ford Roadster from Melbourne, Fla.

For more information or to register, call the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce at (229) 377-3663.

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