James Dean is remembered as being quintessentially cool. His youthful angst plus his love of cars and motorcycles led to living life to its fullest. Born and raised in Grant County, Indiana, Dean is a 1950s movie icon. He is known for his “coolness”, his rebellious roles in three Hollywood films, his passion for speed, cars and motorcycles, and ultimately, his tragic death at the young age of 24.
James Dean was nominated posthumously for two Oscars. In 1956, he was nominated for his leading role in East of Eden, and in 1957, he was nominated for his leading role in Giant. His IMDb page details 32 film, TV, commercials and stage credits.
Every year, the Grant County community celebrates his life during the annual Remembering James Dean Festival in Fairmount, Indiana. Of course, classic cars and motorcycles are a big part of the celebration. In fact, Grant County will be the “epi-center of cool” as three events come together in one weekend. The Ducktail Run in Gas City, the Remembering James Dean Festival & James Dean Run Car Show in Fairmount, and the Jonesboro River Rally in Jonesboro make Grant County the coolest place to be. Be There or Be Square!
Grab your shades and your saddle oxford shoes, then head to Fairmount for the Annual Remember James Dean Festival. Sponsored by the Fairmount Historical Museum, this event celebrates James Dean along with the carefree and cool 1950s. At the museum, Dean’s favorite motorcycle, his 1955 Triumph TR5 is on display along with photos, clothing, awards and other artifacts from his short life. To complete the fabulous 50s feeling, check out the James Dean look-a-like contest, Grand Parade, 50s dance contest (can you do the jitterbug?), lasso contest, 5K walk, a nifty-fifties Pet Parade, street fair complete with carnival rides and of course lots of music from the decade that brought us rock and roll.
On Saturday, September 23, see the Oscar winning 1955 movie, Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean and Natalie Wood. This FREE outdoor screening will light up the Main Street Stage in Fairmount starting at 8:45 pm.
The James Dean Run Car Show at nearby Playacres Park in Fairmount, a gigantic gathering of classic and custom cars, creates the cool vibe made even more “hip” by the Parade of Neon and swap meet. The 50s entertainment will make you shake, rattle and roll. You’ll be “made in the shade” walking through the rows of classic 1950s cars with fuzzy-diced rear-view mirrors and shiny chrome.
While visiting the area, see the larger-than-life James Dean cut out murals, created by famous muralist John Cerney. Cruise to three Grant County locations to see these marvels and take a selfie. You’ll find them, in fact you won’t be able to miss them, at the James Dean Gallery in Fairmount, on State Road 26 as you enter Fairmount, and finally, on State Road 18 at the entrance to Ballard Field in Marion. The murals are no less than 12 feet tall and are of various James Dean poses. These are the only John Cerney cut out murals in Indiana, so be sure to see them all. See more photos and learn about these incredible art pieces and about the renowned John Cerney.
Another part of this extraordinarily cool weekend is the Ducktail Run Rod & Custom Show in close-by Gas City. From over 40 states and Canada, more than 2,000 cars from 1972 and older will be on display at Beaner Linn Park. A swap meet, crafts, live entertainment and awards will delight and excite classic car enthusiasts. Inspired by the era of the ducktail hairstyle, the classic ponytail and all things cool, at the Ducktail Run Rod & Custom Show, the cars are the stars.
James Dean loved motorcycles and speed. In fact, he bought his first motorcycle at a shop right in Grant County! So, it is fitting that another element of the James Dean Weekend Runs and Rallies is the Jonesboro River Rally where more than 15,000 motorcycles will roar and rumble into town. Stunt riders, bike show-n-shine, rockin’ music, fabulous food, a poker run and memorial ride all come together at this cool cycle event.
In Grant County, three cool events come together for one classic weekend. What a tribute to one of Hollywood’s and Indiana’s coolest icons, James Dean. His passion for speed, cars and motorcycles has inspired 3 days of festivities that will take you down memory lane to a time when poodle skirts, saddle shoes and ducktails were all the rage at the sock hop.
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