2009-07-02 / Front Page

34th Auto Show Hits Town


Spectators Stroll State Street Saturday
Top Celebrity Guests Make for Great 2009 Show, Says Organizer Ed Reavie By Mark Tower

34th Auto Show Hits Town

Throngs of people take to State Street in downtown St. Ignace Saturday afternoon, June 27, perusing the multitude of classic and custom cars on display during the 34th Annual Auto Show. As seen from atop the city's Municipal Hall, spectators and automobiles were packed shoulder to shoulder and bumper to bumper between Municipal Hall and the Arnold Dock, just a small section of the show's entirety.
People and gleaming automobiles filled the streets of St. Ignace Thursday, June 25, through Saturday, June 27, for the 34th Annual St. Ignace Car Show. Winners included Dave and Diane Fischbach of Bellaire for their 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air in Best of Show Original, Tom DeMarco of Rochester Hills for his 1954 GMC Pickup in Best of Show Modified, Jim Ryan of Ypsilanti for his 1970 Ford in Participants Choice Original, and "Hot Rod Bob" Fulkerson of Oxford for his 1957 Chevy Bel Air in Participants Choice Modified.

Highlights of the show were the Down Memory Lane Parade Friday evening, cruise night Thursday, and the all-day

John Schneider recognizes the "Dukes" theme song during Friday's Guest of Honor brunch.
car display that drew thousands of people downtown Saturday. Cars were displayed along the city's main street, with State Street closed from Church Street to Marquette Street to accommodate the vehicles and show goers.

As the last muscle cars and hot rods filtered out of town Sunday, the city returned to its everyday life and residents were left with memories of celebrity guest John Schneider, the General Lee, cars cruising down State Street, and car lovers as far as the eye could see.

What brought so many people to St. Ignace Saturday? According to Ed Reavie, the show's organizer, the two celebrity guests, television actor John Schneider and automotive writer Ken Gross, played a big part in making it what Mr. Reavie called "one of the bigger shows" in its 34-year history.

"Celebrity-wise, it was the best show," he said. "We have had one of our better guests in John Schneider, an absolute four-star guy. Ken Gross brought a lot of people; he's a street-rod god."

Organizer Ed Reavie at the car show.
Of Mr. Schneider, Mr. Reavie said the fan pandemonium the former "Dukes of Hazzard" star brought with him was "absolutely incredible."

"He came in here this morning at about 10:30, hit the Dixie horn on the General Lee," and fans started gathering around him, he said.

Both guests of honor were presented keys to the city by St. Ignace Mayor Paul Grondin and City Manager Eric Dodson at the Guest of Honor Brunch at St. Ignace Middle School Friday, June 26.

One disappointment at this year's show was the absence of car company displays , like those of General Motors, which has had a large presence as a sponsor at past shows. Mr. Reavie said the company's absence is understandable given the current economic crisis, and that he looks forward to better times, when the company can return to St. Ignace .

The increased number of cars and people this year was a surprise to Mr. Reavie, who said the poor economy, layoffs, and bad news in the auto industry this year initially made him pessimistic.

Far left: Jim Ryan of Ypsilanti holds high his award for Participants' Choice for Best Original Car. Mr. Ryan entered his 1970 Ford in this year's show. The award for original car is picked by car show participants and focuses on factoryrestored vehicles that have not been customized.
"I didn't think this one was going to be very good," he said of the 2009 show. "All those folks who got laid off in mid-Michigan are our tourist customers. They came north this week, though, in droves."

A group of car owners from Wisconsin, many of whom had never been to the St. Ignace show, came this year and said they would plan to return.

Bill Schrock from Oconto, Wisconsin, brought his 1954 Ford Sunliner convertible to his first show here. He said the show schedule has conflicted in the past with "Back to the 50s," a nostalgic car show in St. Paul, Minnesota. At St. Ignace, he said he enjoyed talking with car enthusiasts he rarely sees elsewhere.

Left: Tom DeMarco won the Best of Show (Modified) award for his 1954 GMC Pickup. The award focuses on finding the best vehicles in the show which have been modified with nonoriginal parts. He is pictured with "Top Hat John" Jendza (left).
Dick and Chris Sustman from Green Bay, Wisconsin, came with Mr. Schrock's group, and said they enjoyed their first time at the famous show. They brought a 1967 Oldsmobile 442.

"The weather was great, great for traveling," Mr. Sustman said. "The parade was nice."

He said they would likely come back again, depending on the timing and conditions surrounding the show.

John Lipinski from Munger brought his 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle this year, and said he comes to the St. Ignace show just about every year.

"I like it all," Mr. Lipinski said, "the nice ride [here], the show is great, and you get to meet people."

Mark Reizen from Howell brought a 1939 Ford Deluxe Coupe and said he hoped to bring a 1958 GMC Suburban Carry-all for next year's show. He said he most enjoyed talking to friends and strangers Saturday.

At right: Norm (left) and Marc Schmelzle of Fair Haven stand next to Norm's 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28. The brothers won one of the top 40 spectators' choice awards for the car at the show. Their father, Walt Schmelzle of Troy, (not pictured) also received one of the top 40 awards for his 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, a family car his sons said he has owned for 38 years.
"Being with my friends, some of whom I've known since third grade and all of them since high school," Mr. Reizen said of his favorite aspect of the weekend. "It's a chance to get away from whatever your normal life is."

During the award ceremony Saturday afternoon, Jerry Dixie from Street Rodder Magazine, another special guest of the show, praised the weekend's atmosphere, calling it "the mellowest show" he has seen.

"I've heard this is the best show in Northern Michigan," he said, "but it may be the best show in North America."

The magazine helped sponsor the AMSOIL Street Rodder Road Tour 2009, in which a group of car owners travelled from the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion the previous weekend in Bowling Green, Kentucky, through Wisconsin and on to the St. Ignace show.

Jay Kelso, Jr. (left) and Jay Kelso from Fenton stand between their two cars at Saturday's show. Mr. Kelso has been coming to the show since it began, and his son said he has been here since he was in diapers. Mr. Kelso, Jr. brought a 1970 Ford Mustang Fastback, his first muscle car, while Mr. Kelso, Sr. brought a 1940 Ford Sedan. The father and son said they enjoy working on cars together and they hope to never miss a show in St. Ignace.
Mayor Grondin also made a brief statement at the awards ceremony, recognizing show organizer Ed Reavie for all his work in making the auto show a reality for 34 years.

"He's the reason, along with all of you, that this is a success," he said to the crowd.

The 49th Field Regiment Pipe Band from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, passes during the Down Memory Lane parade on the evening of Friday, June 26. The bagpipe band is a longtime crowd favorite at the St. Ignace Car Show.
Mayors Paul Grondin and Margaret Doud in the Down Memory Lane parade.
John Schneider, of "Dukes of Hazzard" fame, rides in a replica of the "General Lee," a car featured on the 80s TV series. Driving the bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger is the owner, Brian Downing of Lincoln Park.
A blue 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, owned by "Hot Rod Bob" Fulkerson of Oxford, won the Participants Choice for Best Modified award in Saturday's show. (Photograph by Joseph Joliet)
David Swope of St. Ignace drives his 95-year-old grandfather, Bob Gregg, atop his 1920 Chevrolet Model-T Fire Truck during the parade Friday.
A color guard from the U.S. Coast Guard station marches past crowds of onlookers on State Street Friday during the Down Memory Lane parade.
This black 1956 Chevrolet convertible, owned by Donald Lindsay of Columbus, won the Best Convertible award. (Photograph by Joseph Joliet)
Cars line up along State Street during the Down Memory Lane parade Friday, June 26. Show vehicles, floats, and other parade participants started their journey through downtown St. Ignace at 7 p.m. The parade lasted about 90 minutes.
Car Show Guest of Honor Ken Gross glides past St. Ignace's Wawatam Lighthouse in the parade Friday evening, driven by car show guest Mike Stowe.

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