Big events combine efforts, lure thousands to Claremore
Mark Friedel Staff Reporter
Classic car enthusiasts, noodlers, families and friends gathered Saturday at the Claremore Expo Center for the Hot Rods & Heroes Car Show and Poker Run, followed by the Battle of the Big Cats, “Route 66’s richest noodling showdown.”
Claremore Firefighters Local 1077 kicked off the full day of events with their second annual Hot Rods & Heroes Car Show and Poker Run. Car show categories for judging included Pre 1940, Cops Nightmare, Peoples Choice, Best Flames, Best Paint, Rad Rod and more.
Area motorcyclists participated in the poker run and visited five stops, drawing a playing card at each one: the Iron Horse Saloon in Oologah, Greybeards in Collinsville, Rt. 66 Sports Bar in Claremore, 33 Ice House in Inola and then Hot Rods & Heroes in Claremore. Whoever has the best hand at the end of the run is considered the winner.
Registration fees from both events go into the Claremore Firefighters Local 1077 activity fund. The fund benefits city and local organizations, such as East Tulsa Firefighter Mark Meyers’ Hydrants of Hope and the sponsoring of Oklahoma Firefighter’s Burn Camp, said Union President Chris Hayes.
He said Meyers recently had a 32-pound tumor removed at M.D. Anderson in Houston.
“After seeing how many kids had cancer, (Meyers) decided to start Hydrants of Hope to help with their travels to and from the hospital. He’s raised $25,000 in the past year,” said Hayes.
Hayes said the Local 1077 firefighters were glad to see the Battle of the Big Cats noodling tournament event join the Hot Rods & Heroes Car Show this year.
“The Battle of the Big Cats will make our event bigger, bringing in more people and hopefully both events will carry on next year.”
Presented by Claremore’s own Kaleb Summers, the Battle of the Big Cats Noodling Showdown included 135 entries with contestants from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Marion Kincaid, aka Catfish King of the television series “Mud Cats”, Cat Daddy and more entered the tournament.
Noodlers Josh Vaughn, Jimmy Millsap with six-year-old Gabe Millsap, of Quinlan, Texas, made names for themselves during the weigh-in. Vaughn won first prize for his flathead weighing in at 76.4 pounds and Jimmy Millsap was close behind with a 69.2 pound flathead.
Colby Morrow, of Eucha, earned third place with a 62 pound flathead. Morrow was women’s champion last year at the annual noodling festival in Pauls Valley.
First place for the biggest catfish caught won $5,000, second place received $2,500 and third place received $1,500.
Donations collected at the beer tents during the event were sent to the family of 26-year-old noodler Jason Williams, who drowned while noodling last week in the North Canadian River near Oklahoma City.
Collected funds will be sent to help with funeral arrangement expenses, said Summers.
A plaque inscribed in his honor will also be sent to the family.