Capital Region

Ready to roll: Area car shows, cruise-ins moving into high gear

Clockwise from top left: A classic car at a cruise-in at Harbor House Fish Fry in Clifton Park, another classic at a cruise-in at PJ's Bar-B-QSA in Saratoga Springs, a 1958 Edsel Pacer owned by Richard DiDonna of Schenectady at a show last weekend at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, and a photo from the 2019 Adirondack Nationals show in Lake George. (Credits: Ed Sindoni, Don Williams, Peter R. Barber/The Daily Gazette and the Adirondack Nationals)

Clockwise from top left: A classic car at a cruise-in at Harbor House Fish Fry in Clifton Park, another classic at a cruise-in at PJ's Bar-B-QSA in Saratoga Springs, a 1958 Edsel Pacer owned by Richard DiDonna of Schenectady at a show last weekend at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, and a photo from the 2019 Adirondack Nationals show in Lake George. (Credits: Ed Sindoni, Don Williams, Peter R. Barber/The Daily Gazette and the Adirondack Nationals)

Now that the weather is getting warmer, cruising the local car shows makes for a cheap date. Held almost every day or evening of the week through September, each one is different. The Daily Gazette talked to a handful of the many that are out there.

“People like to get out, eat supper,” said Artie Rumrill, who runs the car and truck show at Johnstown’s Pizza Hut. “It’s a night to get out.”

Held the second Friday of every month for the last eight years, Rumrill said he gets all kinds of cars or trucks from any year. And there’s no charge to be in the show.

“Why charge when they’ve put all their money into building them,” he said. “On a good night I’ve had up to 100 cars — new cars, old cars, or even drive-bys.”

Rumrill himself is no stranger to car shows.
“I won an award for one of the top 50 favorites at the Lake George show with my ’35 International truck and this year I’m bringing my ’65 Pontiac Catalina,” he said.

Rumrill gives each entrant five chicken wings. And there are trophies, which a friend in Mayfield makes, and a 50/50 raffle.

PJ’s Bar-B-QSA

At PJ’s Bar-B-QSA in Saratoga Springs, there’s a cruise-in every Tuesday night, weather permitting.

“It was my idea 20 years ago,” said PJ Davis, owner of the restaurant.

It quickly became so popular that Davis asked long-time friend Don Williams to help organize it. Although the show allows only cars up to 1990, there are about 15 “regulars” who show up every week and there’s still “a little bit of everything,” Williams said, sometimes including members from various car clubs.

“It’s like bringing back old memories,” he said. “Even the BBQ is kind of a throw-back to the fifties and sixties. We get about 30 cars on a good night.”

There is no fee to register but PJ’s does give a five-percent-off food coupon. There are no judges, but there are door prizes in the way of gift certificates that local sponsors provide. And monies are collected for a different charity every week. There’s also music by DJ Dr. Doowop.

Harbor House Fish Fry

If it’s Thursday night, check out Cruise the Harbor in Clifton Park. For 15 years, the Adirondack Shelby-Mustang Club has hosted this event as well as participating in the Metro Ford of Schenectady show, which this year is Aug. 15, said club president Walt Dugan“We get up to 100 cars, weather permitting,” he said. “It’s packed and parked in a certain way. Anything . . . even cycles or members of the Cadillac Club or the Corvette Club come as a caravan. We mix everything. It’s a wide variety.”

There’s no fee and entrants get a 10-percent-off food coupon for the Harbor House Fish Fry restaurant.

“People go in and out to eat — the restaurant is famous for its fish fry. People come out to drive and take a look. And in the last 10 years we have a lot of people who just like to show off their cars . . . like the brand new Mustangs. These are high horse power — up to $150,000 cars. But they like to come in and hang with each other and compare stories,” Dugan said.

Dugan himself owns three cars: a 1966 Mustang, 1991 Mustang convertible and a 1956 Ford.

There are door prizes, which are mostly for automotive; a 50/50 raffle with monies to go to the Make a Wish Foundation; and music.

And just as the show has grown every year, so too has his club: from 50 families in 1985 when it was founded to currently 100 families. But the show is the thing.

“It’s what we do. We go to other shows, support a charity. It’s a night out,” Dugan said.

Clifton Park Elks

While these shows do not charge a registration fee and are mostly not car age specific, there are several shows that do fit both criteria. On May 29, the Clifton Parks Elks will hold a show for cars exclusively between 1975 to 2021. Up to 36 trophies will be awarded and proceeds from the 50/50 raffle go to the Elks Scholarship Fund. There is a $15 entry fee.

Saratoga Automobile Museum

Saratoga Automobile Museum at the Saratoga Spa State Park sponsors shows every Saturday in June through September with a raindate on Sunday.

Many shows have trophies, plaques, a 50/50 raffle, a DJ, and food trucks. Some shows are model specific, such as the June 5 show for Cadillac and Buick owners or the June 12 show for “supercars.”

“We’d expect about 20 McClaren sports cars, possibly some Ferraris or Lamborghinis, some special factory orders,” said Megan Hennessey, director of special events. “Everyone thinks their car is a super car. But they’re all wonderful.”

There are also a couple of auctions scheduled of vintage cars over the summer. Because of COVID restrictions, fewer cars than usual will be permitted at the shows and any “drive-ins” are set up through a club.

“We can only have up to 500 people or about one to two people per car, so that means about 200 to 250 cars,” Hennessey said. “Generally, lawn shows have 40 to 150 cars.”

Although there is a $15 fee to enter (spectators are free), the museum gives all entrants free admission to the museum, which opened in 2002 with a mission to celebrate the automobile both from an educational and a technical viewpoint.

A special show also free to spectators at the park on June 19 is the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Eastern Spring Nationals called “Horses to Horsepower,” presented in conjunction with the Charity Motor Club. The AACA, which is a world-wide organization, was founded in 1935 and is based in Hershey, Pa. This is the first time the show has ever been held in Saratoga Springs possibly because the AACA club’s chapter was formed only in 2017 and currently has about 80 members.

“We expect up to 300 cars in a judged show,” said Tom Walsh, the president of the AACA. “There’s a lot of history to the show and the awards are coveted. If you get a first place senior car you can get up to 400 points. A lot of people strive for that.”

The cars cannot be older than the 1990s, but the 125 judges – all of whom have been trained and certified, will be especially looking at the older cars some of whom come from the “brass era.” These are cars built between 1896 and 1915 that had several brass fittings.

“They can be spectacular and are worth upwards of $1 million,” Walsh said. “But we’re looking not so much for spectators but to get these cars judged. These are very serious collectors. Many have multiple cars.”

Adirondack Nationals at Lake George

The largest show in the area is the Adirondack Nationals at Lake George, which this year will be held Sept. 9 –12. It’s the group’s 32nd show.

“Registration is already closed but we’re expecting up to 1,500 cars with a gate that runs 10,000 or more,” said Steve Farina, public relations. “It’s the only show we do all year, so it’s quite an undertaking. Most owners come from the northeast but because of COVID, we don’t know yet about the contingent from Canada.”

This may not compare with the Syracuse Nationals show, which will be held this year at the state fairgrounds July 16 -18, where in past years up to 8,000 cars and trucks showed and 90,000 people attended. But the Lake George show is large enough.

“Planning is all done in-house with thirty people and volunteers in conjunction with the mayor’s office and the sherrif’s department,” he said.
Part of that has to do with crowd control and that on Friday and Saturday nights the show’s cars cruise up and down Canada Street where thousands gawk with pleasure.

“People have an affection for old cars. We pick the 50 favorite that grandpa had or an owner had as a kid,” Farina said. “Everyone enjoys talking about their cars.”

Farina himself has two cars both 1962 Fords. In fact, they were the reason he bought his current house.

“I saw that four-car garage and that was it. The agent asked if I wanted to see the house, and I said no, I’d see enough,” he said laughing.

Although there is an entrant fee of $15, the admission fee is good for the entire festival. There are sponsors who sponsor certain trophies but they also pay for advertising and publish a book, which is like a magazine, as a souvenir program for all participants, Farina said. And the show makes up to a $10,000 donation to a charity and to a college endowment for automotive studies.

“Someone has to know how to fix these cars. It’s space-age technology now,” he said.

Because the show is also a few months away, he said he was not concerned about distance requirements.

“The Broadway shows are to be up to 100 percent capacity, so I don’t see any issue what with the show being outside,” he said.

Categories: Entertainment

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