A long standing partnership between the Blueberry Festival and the Hoosier Old Wheels Club will likely continue no matter where the festival is held.
For the past 42 years, the club has held an antique car show during the Labor Day Festival to raise money for community outreach projects.
According to Hoosier Old Wheels Club President, Duane Bender, the annual event held on the Sunday before Labor Day attracts between 450-500 car owners each year. Last year there were 500 antique cars in the show. To be included in the show, cars must be older than 1998 models.
Bender said, “A couple of years ago when the weather was really bad, we even had 200 come in.”
The show includes a swap meet that usually includes 80-100 cars as well. The “car corral” they set up has an average of 25-35 cars for sell each year.
Bender said last year there were some 5000 car enthusiasts attending the show. The modest admission price of $2 hasn’t been increased since he joined the club in 1997. Bender said, “I know it used to be $1, but I don’t know when it changed.”
Bender said, “We need the Blueberry Festival to get that many people to come.” He said, “We will follow the Blueberry Festival if they decide to go or stay in Plymouth.”
He added, “Blueberry (board members) talked to us.”
After local media coverage began immerging on issues of concerns about the possibility of the festival moving to Argos or other locations, social media posts exploded. Many of the posts contained suggestions as to how problems could be worked out, especially for the car show. Bender said, “We could set up at someplace like the airport, but we won’t do that.” He said, “Those who show their cars here usually go into the festival with their families. It’s a steady flow of people.”
The impending plan to move the tennis courts from the south side of Becknell Dr. to the north side of the street is also a source of concern for the Hoosier Old Wheels Club show. Plans are nearly complete to construct upgraded tennis courts as a project that could cost $1.2-1.7 million funded by the City of Plymouth, the Plymouth Community School Corporation and private donations. A part of the plan is to relocate the Freyman Pavilion as well.
According to Bender, the proposed tennis court placement would take over what he termed the “main and biggest area” they use for the show. Referring to using the area that currently holds the tennis courts and other buildings and uses, Bender said, “It would be very difficult with the dog park back there. It takes up a lot of room.” The dog park is a recent park addition and is a fenced in area. He added, “The ground is low back there and the mosquitoes can eat you up alive.” He also pointed to the trees that are on the property being considered as a potential problem. He said, “We don’t care to have the shade. The birds are a problem.” He said car owners often bring their own canopies to avoid having to park under trees for shade. He said the area that is concrete now under the existing tennis courts would probably work out okay as long as they stay as a hard surface. Long range plans are to convert the area back into grass.
The Club has been a great supporter of a number of projects and programs such as the Marshall County Museum, Plymouth Public Library, the Plymouth Police Department dog and a host of others. Bender said, “We want to help those in need.”
In the past they have used profits from the show to provide upgrades to Centennial Park. Bender said they have installed lighting, a pavilion, roadway, and donated to the skate park. Bender said, “We will make the best of it, but they are leaving us in limbo.” He said they begin advertising for the next year’s car show right after the first of the year and need to be able to say where the show will be held.
According to Bender, there are only 30-40 that pre-register cars for the show. He said the weather conditions are an important factor. He said, “These are valuable cars. They won’t come out in really bad weather.” Those wanting to join in the show, simply drive to the site the day of the event to a register. Car owners joining in the show come from many states, according to Bender. He said they regularly have cars from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and even Kentucky. He said, “We we used to have a prize for the longest distance traveled. We had winners from New York, Washington state and even Texas.”
Although they don’t have a long distance award anymore; they do offer owners a chance to be judged for prizes. Bender said they hire outside judges and owners can register and drive their cars though a tent to be a part of the contest for the top 50 cars. He said there use usually 100 or so cars in the judging portion.
Bender said they have announcements by their DJ throughout the day thanking their sponsors and have their names displayed on the show grounds. He said they depend on the sponsors to hold the show and are very grateful for their support. They also have food service in the show area especially for any car owners who hesitate to leave their cars unattended. Bender said the Blueberry Festival Committee provides security for the event as well.
He expressed his appreciation for all the volunteers that help with the show. He said, “We mark spots on Saturday and then show up by 5:00 A.M. on Sunday. He said there are many others who work all year on a number of Club activities, including his wife Sheri who writes the club’s newsletter.
Bender said, “We are 100 percent behind Blueberry (Blueberry Festival Committee). We don’t have a show without them.”
Carol Anders Correspondent