Carly Conners is waiting for the phone call.
“Hey, this is Jerry Seinfeld.”
Conners, the executive director of the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga State Park, is a big fan of Seinfeld’s web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” and would like nothing better than to get a phone call from the popular comedian and car lover during this busy summer season in Saratoga Springs.
“Yes, I’ve been waiting for that phone call, and during the summer here you never know who might be popping in,” said Conners, who grew up in Troy and East Greenbush and has been a Saratoga Springs resident for 11 years now. “I’d love to get that phone call. Hey, we have between 80 and 100 Bugattis coming later this summer, and between Seinfeld and Jay Leno, we’re hoping to get one of them.”
For 18 years now, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, located along the western border of the park, has been an important destination for people who love cars. Conners, who took over as director in November of 2017, definitely puts herself in that category.
“I’ve always loved cars, and my stepfather, a real car nut, was the one who got me interested,” said Conners. “He would take me to Watkins Glen, and I’ve been involved in local car clubs for a long time. I got involved with the Northeast Audi Club about 15 years ago and then got on the board here at the museum two years ago.”
Conners oversees a staff of seven paid employees and a host of enthusiastic volunteers. The museum has a collection of more than 40 vehicles and most of them are on public display throughout the facility. There are permanent exhibits, including “Racing in New York State,” and temporary exhibits that typically change two or three times a year.
“People are intrigued by the ‘Racing in New York’ exhibit because it’s about cars that were either made or raced in New York,” said volunteer docent Joe Boudreau, who grew up on Long Island and has been a long-time resident of Ballston Lake. “We have a film strip from Watkins Glen from the 1950s and the car in the film is here. That’s something people get excited about, and they’re also surprised that we had so many car makers back then in the New York City and Buffalo area.”
The museum has a 1931 vehicle donated by the Freihofer family and built by the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company of Buffalo. Also in the collection is a vehicle produced by the Franklin Automobile Company of Syracuse, which went bankrupt in 1934, and a product of the Playboy Automobile Company in Buffalo, a small company which was created in 1947 and went out of business in 1954.
Boudreau, obviously a car fanatic, started volunteering at the museum after retiring from Empire State College three years ago. He usually volunteers twice a week and on special occasions.
Melissa Murphy, Director of Education and Membership & Volunteer Coordinator at the museum, said her job is made easier by a knowledgeable group of volunteers.
“For special events like our annual fundraiser we’ll get 200 volunteers, and in the museum on a normal day we typically have three or four docents on the floor answering questions any visitors might have,” said Murphy. “We get a lot of retired men, who know a lot about automobiles, and they enjoy coming here, having a cup of coffee with people, and talking about cars.”
Murphy said you don’t have to know a lot about cars to volunteer.
“I didn’t know that much about cars myself when I started,” said Murphy, who grew up in Ravena and went to Central Connecticut State where she got a degree in childhood education. “I started here 11 years ago doing membership, and then I progressed doing all kinds of other things. When people come in here asking about volunteering, we hand them an application and they meet with me, and then we decide what would be best suited for them.
“If they’re not comfortable as docents, they can work in our archives or in the gift shop,” continued Murphy. “But if they want to be a docent they’ll come in and shadow another docent until they feel comfortable. We show them the ropes, and we’ll give them plenty of information so they can read up on the different cars we have here, and they’ll be able to answer most of the questions people may have.”
Along with showing off cars of all makes, models and years, the Saratoga Automobile Museum makes a concerted effort to make driving safer by using Distracted Driving Simulators.
“There are so many kids out there who don’t realize how one second of their life can impact their life with a car accident,” said Conners, who went to Hartwick College and got her MBA from the Sage Colleges of Albany. “That’s why are Distracted Driving Simulators are so important. We take them to the schools and teach the students about the perils of driving distracted. And it doesn’t have to be texting or making a call. You could be distracted by turning on the radio, or the heat or GPS.”
The simulators are also available for the public to use at the museum.
“People who come through the museum for a tour can use them,” said Murphy. “I really think it’s one of the really important things we do here. We make kids aware of just how dangerous it is to be distracted while you’re at the wheel.”
The museum hosted a British car show last weekend, and will be the location for “Tuners in the Park 4” Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Things don’t slow down at the museum when the summer winds down. There are special events almost every weekend, including a celebration of Bugattis on Sept. 5-6 and the annual Saratoga Auto Auction Sept. 21-22.
“Our auction is our largest event of the season, and it’s held on the SPAC stage,” said Conners. “We’re also expecting a lot of people for the Bugatti show. It’s going to be an incredible September here. We have two really rare Bugattis coming, one of them that was owned by Ralph Lauren.”
Saratoga Automobile Museum
WHERE: 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga State Park
WHEN: Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week in August
HOW MUCH: $8.50, $6 for students, seniors and all military members; $4 for children 6-16, children under 6 free
MORE INFO: (518)-587-1935, or visit www.saratogaautomuseum.org
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