Cars For A Cause

MARIETTA – It’s an annual Father’s Day event, but Sunday’s Marietta Noon Lions Club Bill Drayer Memorial Car Show at East Muskingum Park had special meaning for Chris and Misty Mitchell of Marietta.

The Mitchells had two blue Ford Mustangs on display, a 1999, and a 2009 model.

“My dad, Roger Mitchell, passed away five years ago on Father’s Day,” Chris said. “He loved cars, especially Mustangs. And this 2009 anniversary model was the last car he rode in.”

Roger was battling cancer when he drove the car for the last time.

“He was undergoing chemo therapy at the time, but he made it down the steps and into the car that day,” Misty added. “He was definitely a Mustang fan. So we’ve been coming here every year, rain or shine.”

Their vehicles were among 131 that filled East Muskingum Park for the 22nd annual car show Sunday.

“We were hoping to surpass the record of 138 cars during this show, and we almost made it,” said Noon Lions member and event coordinator Randy Wilson.

Several hundred people, in addition to exhibitors, turned out for the car show on a nearly picture-perfect Sunday.

“This is the first time in a couple of years that it hasn’t rained,” Wilson said. “The show started at 10 a.m., but by 8 a.m. we already had 22 cars waiting to find their favorite spot in the park. And we’ve had many people say they love the atmosphere here, and that there’s a lot of shade instead of a hot asphalt parking lot.”

The event is free to the public, but a $10 per vehicle entry fee is charged to exhibitors, and that funding goes to support Noon Lions projects.

“We named it the Bill Drayer Memorial Car Show because Bill was a longtime Lions member who chaired this event for many years before he died,” explained Bob Crock, current president of the Marietta Noon Lions Club.

He said the show is held every Father’s Day and provides families with a great opportunity to get out and enjoy some time with their dads and granddads.

“There’s a real touch of nostalgia for most people, and when you think cars, you think dads,” Crock said. “The Lions provides eyeglasses and eye exams for folks in need, and we also give scholarships each year for local high school graduates. Proceeds from events like this help fund those programs. And we thank all the businesses who donated prizes for our trivia contest.”

Wilson noted the Noon Lions raise between $10,000 and $12,000 every year from the car show and other fundraising events to support the club’s efforts on behalf of the community.

A new wrinkle during this year’s car show was Uncle Dan’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream that provided cool treats for the crowd as temperatures climbed into the 80s on Sunday afternoon. The Noon Lions also sold hot dogs, fries, sandwiches and drinks from the club’s kitchen on wheels.

Six-year-old Eli Hall, of Marietta, enjoyed J.D. Rollison’s “hillbilly mobile.” The vehicle, built on a 1930s Model A Ford. was loaded with a variety of items, including a toilet passenger seat, “moonshine” barrel, and plenty of pots, pans, rubber chickens, and other paraphernalia.

“It looks like a lot of junk to me,” Eli said.

His mother, Amanda Schmidt, said she and Eli were on their way to see a magician perform at the Lafayette Hotel, but he wanted to stop at the car show first.

“He loves looking at old cars, especially those that are a bit unusual,” she said.

J.D. Rollison’s wife, Sandy Rollison, said the hillbilly-themed vehicle has belonged to her husband for the last six or seven years.

“We took it to the Hillbilly Convention in Michigan last year and it made the local newspaper,” she said.

Dan Edwards, of Marietta, was taking a Father’s Day stroll with his 9-month-old grandson, Bentley, and stopped by the car show for the first time. Edwards was admiring a black 1971 Cutlass Supreme on display.

“I had a 1971 Cutlass like this one, only it was a four-door, but with the same Rocket 350 engine,” he said. “Mine was a cream color that I had bought off of a buddy. I owned that car for six or seven years before it became so rusty that I had to have it crushed.”

Jerry James, of Lowell, brought his 1949 Borden Divco milk truck to Sunday’s show.

“He bought it at an auction,” said Jerry’s wife, Rhonda James. “Jerry’s dad, uncles and grandfather all drove vehicles like this for the Borden Company in Zanesville. Jerry’s wanted one of these for years – he loves old cars.”

Doug Sprague, of Watertown, had a fire engine red 1978 Dodge Li’l Red Express pickup truck on display Sunday.

“I bought this truck brand new, right out of high school,” he said, holding up the check he wrote for $6,713 to pay for the vehicle, which came complete with an 8-track tape player.

He said the pickup is garage-kept and only has 56,000 miles on it.

Diane Fleming, of Devola, was also displaying a vehicle she purchased in the 1970s – a red 1973 Mustang convertible.

“I’m the original owner. I ordered it brand new from Bob Bigler Ford,” she said. “It used to be the car I drove daily, and I still drive it, but not nearly as often now – usually only on weekends if it’s sunny.”

Her husband, Phil Fleming, had his 1957 Ford Ranchero pickup parked beside the Mustang. He said the Ranchero came to him in several cardboard boxes.

“I worked on it for 13 months, constantly,” he said. “There was no motor and no transmission. I tell Diane it was her birthday present because I bought it on her birthday in 2009.”

The Flemings said they really enjoy participating in the annual car shows.

“It’s fun, meeting people and hearing their stories,” Diane said, noting some folks don’t talk much, but may stand looking at the cars for some time.

“They’ll just stop and gaze for a while, and you know the car has sparked some memory of their past,” she said.