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Your All-Access Pass to Deadwood’s Koolest Nites

Written By: Molly Barari

Deadwood is known for its kool history, its kool people and its kool surroundings in the beautiful Black Hills. It’s also known for hosting Kool Deadwood Nites every August, an event that brings car enthusiasts from all over the world to the region. If you’ve been to the event before, you know that it includes car competitions, car auctions, rod runs and poker runs. There’s also a Main Street parade and concerts for music fans every night. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, there’s something fresh, fun and unique each year at Kool Deadwood Nites.


Here’s a rundown of the events you won’t want to miss during this year’s Kool Deadwood Nites, taking place August 23-26 in Historic Deadwood. Registration begins Thursday at Deadwood’s new Welcome Center at 501 Main Street. Cars registered for KDN will have a special section of parking available at the Lower Main Street Parking Lot.

On Thursday from 4-9 p.m., folks can vote for the People’s Choice Awards for their favorite classic cars and hot rods. Those results will be announced at 10 p.m. on Main Street.

For those who like a good rod run, the 10th Annual Denny Menholt Rapid Chevy Rod Run will take place Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those who prefer poker runs can partake on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. across the Black Hills. Car show competitors and enthusiasts will gather for a Black Hills Awards party at 5 p.m. Saturday at Tin Lizzie.

Bright and early Sunday morning is the beloved KDN Parade starting at 9 a.m., followed by a Show & Shine from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The official KDN Awards will be given at 11 a.m. following the parade – what will you win?

Many folks come to KDN for the entertainment. The Main Street free entertainment this year will showcase The Grass Roots on Thursday, The Lettermen on Friday, and The Box Tops on Saturday. The Sunday night concert will take place at the Deadwood Mountain Grand, featuring the “Happy Together” tour and bands such as The Turtles, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, and The Association. The “Happy Together” tour is a ticketed event, so hurry and grab yours!

An additional day of free concerts is added to this year’s lineup, held in conjunction with the Sturgis Mustang Rally. Mustang Monday occurs August 27 and is held in the Days of ’76 Event Complex, headlined by Jay & The Americans and The Happening. This is a free event.


The 20th annual KDN Auction is an event you won’t want to miss. It’s happening on Friday and Saturday at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center, starting at 9 a.m. each day. McPherson Auction & Realty Company of Rapid City will preside over the auction.

There will be around 100 classic cars on sale each day, as well as memorabilia, signs and more. The car sales will begin at 10 a.m. each day after viewers have had a chance to “oooh” and “ahhh” over their favorites.

“We have some really nice vehicles consigned from different time periods,” said Kevin McPherson. “We expect to receive even more top-quality consignments before the auction.”

McPherson said he expects people from all over the United States and the world to attend this year’s auction. Each year, up to 3,000 people attend.

“We have a buyer who loves to come to Deadwood every year from England to purchase vehicles,” said McPherson. “The auction is a big event, and when you add the car show and concerts, Kool Deadwood Nites is the largest event for Deadwood of the year.”

McPherson and his brother Todd – who also runs auctions – were both born in Deadwood, which makes the KDN event extra special for them. Their parents lived in Sturgis, but 59 years ago, there wasn’t a hospital in Sturgis. Deadwood was the only hospital for that part of the country at the time.

Their father, Dale, has been an auctioneer since 1949, and has built many relationships over the years that his sons Kevin and Todd have worked hard to maintain.  

“Coming to KDN is almost like a family reunion; we know a lot of the people, and a lot of them know us,” said Kevin. “We know they look forward to the down-home hospitality that our family auction business offers and that the town of Deadwood offers.”

Kevin said many of the folks go to bigger auctions throughout the year, but they report that nothing compares to the atmosphere of Deadwood with its small-town friendliness.

In the McPherson family, everyone helps during the auction. Kevin’s and Todd’s children help with office work and driving cars around. “This takes lot of planning and meetings with the city of Deadwood to get things organized and laid out,” said Kevin. “A lot of the time and effort goes into planning where the cars will be so auction-goers can enjoy them.”


Last year’s KDN Best of Show award went to John Emaico’s 1956 Chevy Nomad, which was built by G3 Rods in Rapid City. The white and chrome classic car also won first in the Tri-Five, ’55-’57 category.

Emaico, 74, lives in Spokane, Washington with his wife, Sheila, and said that traveling to car shows is 40 percent about the car and 60 percent about the people they meet.

“It’s fun to meet people from different parts of the country,” he said. Emaico has been around cars his entire life, but he really started to get into them as a hobby around 15 years ago.

The Chevy Nomad made its debut at last year’s Goodguys car show in Del Mar, California, and qualified for the Custom Rod of the Year Award. In fact, the car appeared at six Goodguys shows in 2017 and at each show, it won Builder’s Choice awards. The car has been everywhere, from Fargo to Albuquerque to Deadwood.

How did it feel to win last year’s Best of Show award at KDN?

“We were ecstatic,” said Emaico. “The guys from G3 Rods built an extraordinary vehicle. For a station wagon, it’s tough to beat. It’s just a really cool car.”

Emaico initially connected with Tyler Nelson from G3 Rods in Reno, Nevada, at Hot August Nights car show.

“Tyler and I kept butting heads at the show. Finally, he asked me if I might be interested in the Nomad, so we drove to Rapid City later that fall, bought the shell, and had it built.”

It took 18 months to build the car. Emaico describes Nelson’s body work as meticulous and impeccable.

“He knows how to build hot rods, and G3 is lucky to have him.”

Here are some of the car’s highlights:

  • All-aluminum 409 engine
  • Steel-injected
  • 515 cubic inches
  • 600 horse power at the rear wheels
  • Redesigned interior work, new dash and center console

“From top to bottom, from the inside out, it’s beautiful,” said Emaico. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. The white and chrome really makes it pop. It’s not going to be a one-hit wonder.”

Ryan Gruba from G3 Rods also worked on the car and saw it win the Best of Show award at KDN. He describes the experience this way: “Great people, great show, great town.”

We’ll second that!



Visit for a full list of events, or call the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-999-1876.


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