Leslie Peel, ACD Festival executive director

Leslie Peel, new executive director of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, stands near a vintage Auburn automobile inside the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. The festival office is housed inside the museum.

AUBURN — The new leader of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival won’t need a get-acquainted period.

Leslie Peel settles into the driver’s seat with two years of experience as an assistant for the annual classic car celebration that brings throngs to Auburn each Labor Day weekend.

Peel takes over for Amber Jackson, who organized festivals from 2017-2019 before taking a position as executive director for the DeKalb County Visitors Bureau.

Peel worked as a community outreach coordinator for Jackson in 2017. Before that, she helped former director Sarah Payne as an administrative assistant for the 2016 event.

“I’ve seen two different directors now and their styles — very different but both really effective,” Peel said. “Seeing the festival grow like that, I really want to be a part of that momentum.”

“We liked her experience of having worked at the festival before,” said Mike Boswell, president of the festival board of directors that hired Peel.

“She and her husband have been supporters of the festival,” Boswell added. “She is a people person, outgoing, very friendly to deal with all the visitors that the ACD Festival deals with on a daily and yearly basis.”

Peel agrees with the description of her as a people person.

“What I like about coming back into the festival — most of the board, I’ve worked with,” she said, and she knows many of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club members from across the nation who bring their classic cars to the event.

Peel said she will be helped by the relationships she built during past festivals and knowing the inner workings of the festival office, housed inside the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

A Fort Wayne native, Peel studied elementary education and Spanish at Ball State University. She taught middle school classes for 10 years, then worked in corporate training before marrying her husband, Kerry. They moved to DeKalb County 15 years ago.

“Auburn really appealed to us — the history of Auburn, but also the feeling of community,” Peel said.

She began attending ACD Festivals with her father even before she moved to DeKalb County, she said.

“When I met my husband, he was really into all of it, too,” she added. This fall, Kerry encouraged her to seek the festival job, “because he’s a huge fan of it.”

The couple have three children — two in college and an eighth-grader in DeKalb Middle School. Peel said she has been actively involved as volunteer for their children’s school activities. She made a bid for election to the DeKalb Central school board last year.

When the couple’s second child enrolled in college, Peel said, she was ready for a job in the community. She was on brink of accepting a different position when she learned the festival post was available.

Peel said she is arriving on the heels of a very good year for the festival. She looks forward to “adding more fun things,” especially new activities on Sunday of the festival weekend and events for families.

Her predecessor, Jackson, is becoming a festival board member. Peel said she will work with Jackson on spreading word about the festival beyond the immediate area.

One week into her new job, Peel said, “I’m hitting the ground running.”

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