Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb is an annual festival that takes place on the first Sunday of October in Newport, Indiana. The festival is run by the Lions Club of Newport, and the town of Newport. Each year a Hill Climb Queen is crowned, as well as many winners of the timed race. The Newport Auto Antique Hill Climb is an international antique auto up hill timed event held each year in the small Indiana town of Newport, an event that attracts those crowds of one hundred thousand plus to that little town. Automobiles, trucks and motorcycles from the Steam, Brass, Vintage, Antique, and Classic Car eras, make timed runs from a standing start, up a steep hill to a finish line 1,800 feet away.
The Newport Hill Climb likely began as an “innocent” challenge between two owners of those new-fangled automobiles. While early autos had trouble making it up the crest of the hill, soon topping the 140-foot plus hilltop became common, but still a great struggle on the early gasoline engines. Then it wasn’t just enough to top the hill; you had to be the fastest to climb it.
The first Hill Climb was held in 1909 and organized by the businessmen of Newport as a way to capitalize on the interest in climbing the hill. Hill Climbing contests were becoming more common place, and by 1915 the “newness” has worn off, and board-track and other circular racing forms were becoming more popular. The financial returns to the businessmen shrank, as did the interest in holding the event, and the 1916 event never materialized.
The Newport Volunteer Fire Department rekindled the event as an Antique Auto Hill Climb in 1963 and 1964, but again the financial returns and shortage of manpower ended the event after two years.
In 1967, with urging from a number of antique car enthusiasts and car clubs, the Newport Lions Club was formed and the Hill Climb reborn as its major fund-raiser. The first event was held in 1968 and soon after, the First Sunday of October was designated as the “race day.” Early festivals began on Thursday or Wednesday with nightly activities before settling into the current three-day format.
Now the event is one of the Top 20 largest festivals in Indiana, attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year to the Vermillion County Seat with a population of barely on a busy day. With a world-wide audience, the Hill Climb has grown into the third-largest motorsports event in the Hoosier State, trailing only the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR at the Brickyard race.
Lions Clubs are an international service organization, which sponsor such projects as the Leader Dog School for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan, cancer research and treatment facilities at the Indiana University Medical Center, eye glass and hearing aid recycling projects, and diabetes awareness programs. Local Lions Clubs also support various other groups and organizations in their home communities.