Winning tradition continues for local resident Ronnie Rodrigue in St. Jude Car Show

Staff Report

The St. Jude Labor of Love Open Car Show presented by the Baton Rouge Corvette Club and Plaquemine Main Street Program has been local resident Ronnie Rodrigue’s ritual since the fundraiser’s inception in 1998, but another tradition has taken shape in the process.

The longtime Plaquemine resident once again captured one of the top awards in the showcases of classic automobiles during the 25th annual event last Saturday at the Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park.

A total of 263 vehicles entered the St. Jude Labor of Love Open Car Show.

Rodrigue, 84, won the top prize in the 1958-70 competition for his 1962 Chevrolet Impala.

He’s won with vehicles ranging from Studebakers to a 1957 Chevy Pickup.

The Impala is a car that Rodrigue particularly loves. He worked on many during his 21 years as a mechanic at Iberville Motors (now Supreme Chevrolet/Cadillac).

Ronnie Rodrigue of Plaquemine won the top prize in the 1958-70 competition for his 1962 Chevy Impala. He has been a mainstay at the car show since its inaugural event in 1998.

“I always loved that car.… Chevrolet hit a home run with that one,” Rodrigue said. “I don’t work on them as much these days, but I still love them.

“It runs as good as it looks,” he said. “I was at Iberville Motors when they were making them brand new because I had started there in 1957.”

Sonny Freeman of Lafayette won the Founders Award for his 1967 Chevy Nova. The award is named in honor of the late Joe and Fay Colettie, who started the show in 1998.

Sonny Freeman of Lafayette won the Founders Award for his 1967 Chevy Nova.

He admits he wasn’t always a fan of the Nova.

“The 1967 model was very special, although I didn’t like the later Novas because they became a “shoebox” model," Freeman said. "But for someone who didn’t like Novas with a little more slant on the lights, I changed my mind.”

Freeman had been a regular but had backed away for a few years.

“We’ve come here for years, but after COVID-19 and then being busy last year, we weren’t able to attend,” Freeman said. “We love this event because we enjoy cars and car people.

“We haven’t been here in the last three years, and this is the show you come to for all the right reasons because of where all the donations go,” he said. “I got a call from my old friend, C.G. Mouch of Addis, who loves this event, and he asked if I would come back – and I’m glad I did.”

The Founder’s Award was named in the memory of Joe and Fay Collettie, who started the show in 1998.

A total of 263 vehicles were featured in the event. It was down slightly than last year’s total of entries, but two other car shows were on the slate last Saturday – one in St. Francisville, and the other at Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

Money from the event goes to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, founded by entertainer Danny Thomas in 1962. The nonprofit medical corporation focuses on children’s catastrophic diseases, particularly leukemia and other cancers. The hospital was founded on the premise that “no child should die in the dawn of life.”