Historic Thanksgiving in Ormond Beach
Just after the turn of the 20th century there were over 200 auto manufacturers in the United States. The competition was fierce to see who would be the one to put America on wheels. In order to gain investors, the inventors had to show what their cars could do. In those early days, the big “knock” on the automobile was that they were slow and undependable. With almost no paved roads, it was all but impossible to get a car up to speed. A winter visitor to the Hotel Ormond in Ormond, Florida who had brought his Stanley Steamer runabout south with him would write a letter to the Automobile Magazine in New Jersey extolling the virtues of the hard- packed beach at Ormond. That letter would land on the desk of Senator William Morgan, a bicycle racing promoter who was interested in starting an automobile race. He was doubtful of the quality of the beach but came to see for himself. When he arrived, he was amazed. The beach would provide a better racing surface than he could have ever imagined. With sponsorship of Henry Flagler and his hotel, he began a series of eight winter speed tournaments. Cars came from all over the world. In the first tournament Alexander Winton, an inventor from Cleveland, Ohio raced his Bullet to a new American record but barely beat the Olds Pirate in the first head- to-head race on any Volusia County beach. At that time, Ormond's beach was the wildest place on the planet. Think about it! The world's fastest machines speeding back and forth on the beach and sometimes wrecking! Cars catching on fire and having to run into the ocean to save the drivers! A thrilling display that would birth the sport of auto racing!
The beach land speed record attempts would eventually move south to Daytona and evolve into NASCAR, the world's most popular auto racing series, and directly lead to the building of Daytona International Speedway at Daytona Beach, Florida.
In 1959, a group of Ormond Beach auto enthusiasts would form a committee to stage events to commemorate the speed records that had been accomplished on the beach. The celebration would be held on the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving. On Friday night would be the Gaslight Parade and on Saturday the Antique Auto Show. Those events have continued uninterrupted and are now some of the oldest continuous antique car events in the nation. Eventually, the Daytona Turkey Run would spin off and is now one of the largest car shows in the world. Today, the city of Ormond Beach is known as the Birthplace of Speed since the town was the first place in the world to hold eight consecutive tournaments to attempt the world's land speed record. Thousands of people young and old turn out each Thanksgiving weekend to see the fabulous car show and to watch the Gaslight Parade which presents a rolling chronological history of the automobile. Great Fun!
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this year's parade and car show have been canceled. All the more to look forward to in 2021!