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Classic Car Show a hit

A '73 Corvette named "Sharkbite" reveals its golden goodness. SAMUEL PICCOLO PHOTO

Fenwick Lions event pulls in dozens of exhibitors, thousands of fans

BY SAMUEL PICCOLO
The VOICE

Some 2,500 people descended upon Centennial Park in Fenwick on Saturday for the long-awaited draw for a 1970 Chevelle Malibu. The “Fabulous” Fenwick Lions, who organized the raffle, also arranged for the day to be a classic car show, with 200 vehicles turning out to spend the day waiting for another owner to join their ranks. At 3 PM, the Lions pulled out a steel cage full of some 7,800 tickets, and conscripted Emilie, a local FM radio personality, to pull the winning name.

The moment was, unfortunately, anti-climactic. The winner, Chrissy Simmons of London, was not in the crowd, and didn’t answer her phone when she was called by one of the Lions, who left her a message. At some point later on Saturday, Simmons no doubt played back one of the more enjoyable voicemails she’s ever received.

It was about this time last year when a small group of Lions was on clean-up duty after one of their bi-weekly fish fries. The team of Steve Schilstra, Andrew Dominey, Ryan Van Lochem, Mel Jackson, and Scott and Doug Kernicky were bouncing fundraising ideas around when one of them said: “We have to get a car.” So they did.

The “Mayor of Fenwick,” Gary Chambers, left, receives $688 in 50-50 winnings from Lion Ken Suthons. DAVE BURKET PHOTO

By the end of last year, the group had bought the ’70 Chevelle, and in January they had printed 10,000 raffle tickets and started selling them.

“The community support has just been incredible,” said Dominey.

At $10 per ticket, the group grossed well over $70,000, the proceeds of which will go directly to the Fenwick Lions’ philanthropic efforts.

“We’ve supported twenty guide dogs in the past,” said Schilstra, “and we’re looking forward to giving this money away for number twenty-one.”

The Fenwick Lions, which have a membership of about 50, are always looking for new members interested in working for the community. Van Lochem joined only last year, but he said already the work had been rewarding. Being a younger member, he was pleased to see how well all the generations of Lions integrated together.

Lions, an acronym for Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety, have been around for century, and number 1.4 million members worldwide. Founder Melvin Jones’ personal motto was, “You can’t get very far until you start doing something for somebody else,” and this is a sentiment Dominey echoed.

“We just want to help out our community,” he said. The “Fabulous” Fenwick Lions were certainly not lacking in enthusiasm on Saturday. Several had their faces painted to resemble true lions in the morning, and there were yellow-shirted members bounding around all day, barbecuing burgers, selling tickets, and answering questions.

There was a lot of work to go around.

So many people attended that some Lions had to work as traffic cops, waving cars in and out of parking zones, trying to keep things organized.

The show cars took up the entire front field at Centennial Park, as well as one baseball diamond and part of another field too. The range of cars was stunning.

Some dated back to the early 20th century—Model Ts, and even a 1906 British field gun. Newer cars too, including one as recent as 2015, though still carrying the look-only instruction. “Warning,” one sign said. “If you value your life as much as I do my car, you won’t touch this…”

“It’s just the right amount of a joke,” its owner said.

Many of the older cars depicted a long-gone era, when gasoline was cheap and parking spaces were large. A few cars, including a ’64 Impala, were set up with little trays by the windshields with fake fast food on them. You half-expected to see an attendant roller-skating up with a milkshake.

“Times have changed,” said Dave Csikos, who had his Model T there on Saturday and has loved cars since he was a kid and his father introduced him to them. Csikos has observed a generational shift—young people do not seem to like old cars as much as previous generations did. He knows of a lot of former car owners who have died and left their antiques to their kids, who either sell the cars or let them sit in a garage.

“They want to get a lot of money for them, so they wait. But soon, the cars are going to be going for cheap.”

He expects that in the coming decades, antique cars will be devalued as fewer people will be interested in investing the money and time needed to maintain them. Car technology is certainly accelerating this trend. In the near future, there could very well be a generation with few memories of “human-driven” automobiles.

Saturday’s attendees were inclined to think that this would be a loss. Classic car owners tend to sit out in the sun for long hours, engaging in endless conversations about engine sizes and bodies and transmissions.

Even the less-technical discussion focused on the past. Two old friends, who seemingly hadn’t seen each other in years, met up among the cars and talked of their old GM days.

“They moved me all around Glendale at the end,” one said. “I supervised just about every different department.”

“I only retired because they shut the plant down,” the other replied.

Another older man, sitting on a lawn chair behind his car, pulled down his shirt to show his neighbour the scar on his chest from open-heart surgery. He pointed to where his pace-maker was put in.

“I’ve got seven grandchildren, so I thought I stick around for a few more years. Make sure that they stay away from the drugs.”

His neighbour shook her head sadly.

“Yes. That’s a really problem right now. It’s just different from how it was when we were young.”

They were quiet for a minute, the music from a live band in the distance echoing across the park. They looked over to where kids were horsing around in the playground, oblivious to the coming close of one automotive chapter and the opening of another. A boy banged about and flicked some bells, distracting an inflatable toy attendant from her phone, which was distracting her from her job. It was a beautiful late summer afternoon. The band played on as the cars started to leave.

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The Voice of Pelham
Pelham's independent news source from the heart of Niagara.