More than fins, film as annual celebration expands

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE The third annual Fins and Films theater and automotive celebration is set for July 5 and 6 in Spring Valley, and to prepare, Fins organizer Greg Melartin held a test of new movie projection equipment at his shop on Jefferson Street recently. The equipment was donated to Fins and Films by a generous local donor. From left are Melartin's wife, Oy, Melartin, Stephanie Osterhus Bowe, and Oy and Greg's daughter, Olina.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Spring Valley’s going to have a downtown buzz this weekend, and it’s got fins, campers, grass drags, Space Heaters, a Slim Stone, Surly Beer, classic cars and bikes, pins and minis and a big transformational Bumblebee on a ’61 Bella.
It’s all courtesy of Spring Valley resident Greg Melartin, instigator of Spring Valley’s annual Fins and Films car show and outdoor theater celebration happening downtown on Broadway this weekend, Friday, July 5, and Saturday, July 6.
“The movie this year’s going to be ‘Transformers: Bumblebee,’ and I’m going to back up my 1961 Imperial, which my daughter, Olina, named ‘Bella,’ and put the projector on that to show the movie,” Melartin said.
This is the third time Melartin’s revved up Spring Valley’s engines to mark the town’s drive-in theater and automotive history, and while the first two years were one-day affairs with grass drags, a burnout show, vendors on the downtown sidewalks, a car show and pinup show, the 2019 Fins and Films has a bigger tank for better mileage – it’s beginning on July 5 at noon with vintage camping on the lot across from the Spring Valley Public Utilities power plant and ending the following evening with the showing of “Bumblebee” on the side of a truck. 
“I’ve had people contact me about camping, and one guy had a 1953 Comet all-aluminum camper that he’s towing with a 1956 GMC,” Melartin said. “There’s a lot of room to set up your vintage camper, and someone will be there guiding people to find their own site along the edge of the lot.  It’s all vintage campers, so if you’ve got something large or a modern camper, you’ve got to go to the campground.”  
Eats come next, with Surly Beer and Ody’s Country Meats making their wares available as the SpaceHeaters warm up the music scene at 7 p.m. SpaceHeaters is a band from La Crosse that plays punk, ska and jazzy-type music, Melartin explained. After that band, Liquor Beats Winter, a psychobilly-rockabilly band from Minneapolis, will perform and then Slim Stone concludes the music Friday night.
The Fins and Films founder has big news for Saturday morning as grass drag enthusiasts pull onto the land belonging to Matt and Cheyanne Kolling behind Five Wynds on Spring Valley’s north side.  
“We have a crazy-awesome, amazing opening ceremony planned for kicking off at the grass drags on Saturday morning, right at 9 a.m., so people should make sure they’re there on time.  We’re extending the hours a little bit, and we’ll let anything pre-1988 run on the field,” Melartin said. “It’s a great time, a chance to take photos.  It’s all about having a good time and getting good pictures.  Last year, we had about eight cars running and about 30 to 40 people watching.  This year, Racks is having a breakfast, so people can go down there, grab a coffee and breakfast, watch the people running around in the dirt.  I can’t thank the Kollings enough for letting us use that space.”  
The morning to noon will be well spent at the grass drags, but that’s just the key in the ignition for Saturday’s events. Downtown at noon downtown people may park their pre-1988 cars, bikes and even a camper if they want.  
“It’s pre-1988 because that’s when the drive-in theater closed in Spring Valley, and we’re showing off the town’s automotive and theater history,” Melartin said. 
People are able to park their vintage cars downtown on Broadway while others can park their modern cars off Broadway on North Vine Alley. Tom Schramm & the LPs, a cover band of traditional country rock and bluegrass doing country jams, will also perform downtown.  
From 1 to 3 p.m., burnouts will take place by Melartin’s shop – 121 East Jefferson Street. “We’re looking for cars, trucks and bikes…all more than welcome to play, but we’re not looking for somebody who has bald tires and just wants to blow off their tires.  We’ve got to be cool – no death traps,” he said. “I know at least one guy who wasn’t here last year who’s coming.  It’s always surprising who shows up.  It went really well last year, and there were lots of smiles.”  
It’s Surly time again at 2 p.m. on Broadway, along with Ody’s and Howard Brothers, Pizza Place and Some Like It Hot Cakes & Catering serving up refreshing suds and sustenance just as the “mini-pins,” or junior pinup girls and greaser boys, take the stage to dance and share their throwback fashions.  Chateau de Chic proprietor and annual pinup show organizer Jenn Slifka outlined the reasons for the pinup show, which has included mini-pins the first two years, to be given its own attention and time with help from Just for Kix instructor Laura Perez Nichols.  
“The kids have their own show because with our festival growing, we wanted to break it up to two separate events to split the number of people between the two,” she said. “We only expect Fins and Films to grow, and this offers another form of entertainment.” 
“We’re expanding the show and making it longer by giving the kids their own opportunity to be creative,” Melartin concurred.
Also new this year is a cardboard box car contest and show in which kids can build their own car out of cardboard and show it off.  The winner will be announced at 6 p.m. before the pinup show.  
“We’ve got Minnesota State College Southeast bringing their mobile welding trailer so that anybody 2 to 206 can learn how to weld. I do other educational things for Fins and Films, because it’s nonprofit and educational, like go to the school and let them borrow my TIG welder and give history lessons on automotive history,” Melartin said. 
Also, music from 2 for the Road will be from 3 to 6 p.m. before the pinup show at 6:30 p.m.  This had been earlier in the day, but organizers decided to move it a little later so that it’s cooler and people aren’t in the hot sun.  Minnesota State College Southeast is also bringing in a 55-foot flatbed for the pinups, a bigger trailer than before.  Last year, there were 52 pinups.  
“It’s an amazing show, and everyone had a blast,” said Melartin. 
Slifka contributed that the pinup show, a runway event that has captured the imaginations of women from Spring Valley and beyond – as far away as Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin – allows the ladies who gather in her salon to have their hair teased into high victory rolls and luxurious loops to flaunt their fabulousness on a motorcycle- and gas pump-decorated trailer in front of the salon.  
“It is a fun event.  A great way for women to show off their love for vintage style,” she said. “Being a pinup is a great way for women to feel beautiful and empowered.  The whole event is wrapped around recreating the past and remembering a time that brings back memories for people.  Things were made differently, and it was a different time, and definitely a time that people love to reflect on even if they didn’t live it.” 
“We’re hoping that by moving the pinup show to the evening, the pinups will stay around and watch the movie, be part of the scenery, because right after that, we’re having the closing ceremony and announcements, then we’re watching ‘Bumblebee,’” Melartin remarked.
The second annual Fins outdoor film attracted approximately 200 people, and Melartin’s excited to see the street fill up once more.  
“This year, I’m expecting more with the newer movie.  If you don’t have an old car to sit in, bring a chair, blanket or a beanbag chair to sit on,” he said. “The kids running around during the movie is one of my favorite things…Olina and her friends eating popcorn in the front row.  The kids pick the ‘kids’ choice’ car show award, and I think they picked the best ones – they gave it to Harlan Marchant’s 1959 Dodge that has been in town since he got it from the Marchant’s bookkeeper who had it first, and last year, they picked a 1953 that was a beautiful shade of blue.  Kids know what’s cool and what looks nice.”  
Fins and Films is supported by generous sponsors. Additionally, proceeds from the annual Fins & Films calendar – featuring photos from last year’s Fins & Films, highlighting “hot rods and honeys” – are used to support the event and will be available during the 2019 Fins.  
“I have a great group of people helping make it happen,”Melartin said. “There’s a group of movers and shakers, and without them, I couldn’t do this, and we couldn’t keep it free for the public, because any other show, it’s $35 easy to get into a show like this.  And if someone steals my idea, I take it as a compliment if they can’t think of their own things.”   
Melartin extended an invitation to attend this year’s Fins and Films, saying he’s trying to make something happen to keep people in town on the Fourth of July. 
“People should come to the show because it’s awesome, an amazing experience,” he said. “There’s nothing but smiles and stories to tell for decades to come.  It’s free, too – how often do you get something to go to that’s free?  This is an educational experience because a lot of people don’t know about car culture or can’t afford to get involved, but everyone can come to this, even if they’re not into car culture.  They can come and hang out, enjoy what we enjoy, come down and watch the movie with us.”  
And Slifka, after a day with her crew in the salon backcombing and hair-spraying, is proud to be part of Fins and Films and to see the town where she’s raising her family come alive with kids, music, chrome, pinup “va-va-voom” and a night at the drive-in movies.  
“The entire event has grown so much this year,” she said. “There’s so much new stuff, and it’s an event that is great for all ages.  A way for our community to come together and enjoy each other’s company.”       
Potential pinup show participants may contact Slifka at 507-272-3005, while mini pins, dance and cardboard car contest information may be obtained from Perez Nichols at 919-971-9255.  Vendors may contact Suzanne Gardner at 507-273-9460, campers wishing to participate in the vintage camping may call Sarah Osterhus at 507-696-0438, and for everything else, Melartin at 507-481-8308.