It has been more than two decades since the Escalon Lions Club first put on its ‘Autumn Cruise’ by bringing some classic cars to town.
Twenty-one years later, the show is far from stopping, or even slowing down.
Auto enthusiasts from around the region mark the date on their calendar early, and this year have cleared the day of Saturday, Sept. 6 for the show, which will take over the city’s Main Street Park and a couple of blocks of Main Street from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day.
It’s the 21st annual Escalon Lions Club Autumn Cruise, and the ‘Pre-Cruise’ events continue to run every Friday night in the parking lot adjacent to Hula’s Restaurant on Jackson Avenue, the restaurant dubbed the Car Show Headquarters.
“We’re probably averaging 60 to 62 cars every Friday,” said Lions Club member and car show co-coordinator John Salvin.
Numbers so far this season have ranged from a low of 34 on the first night – when they competed with Graffiti Weekend in nearby Modesto – to a high of 77. The show was moved to the Main Street Park on July 4, but there were still solid numbers that night, said Salvin, and people continue to support the effort.
“We’ve had good weather, happy with the turnout,” Salvin said.
All of the money raised helps support scholarships for graduating Escalon High School seniors and, for the Class of 2014, that meant 19 scholarships, each one for $1,500.
“From the first night, all the money we generate goes back to the scholarship fund,” Salvin explained.
He said people taking chances on the 50-50 drawing each Friday night have also been generous, with each winner to date giving at least a portion of it back for the scholarships.
“It shows that people really care,” Salvin said.
The Friday night shows at Hula’s kicked off on June 6 so they are a little more than halfway through, and will continue to run weekly until Aug. 29.
Oakdale residents Ron and Carol Lyda were on hand for the July 18 gathering, bringing their 1956 Bel Air to showcase.
“We come when we can,” said Lyda. “I like talking with different guys about the older cars.”
Wife Carol said the car itself has a special place in her heart.
“It brings back memories,” she said. “Fond memories.”
Neal Lewallen of Manteca had his 1934 Plymouth on site.
“I’ve been coming for years,” he said of enjoying the camaraderie of the classic car enthusiasts.
As for restoring the car, it was a labor of love and Lewallen admitted he had “no idea” what type of gas mileage it gets.
Each Friday night also features the presentation of plaques, offered by different sponsors, to recognize their favorite cars.
“It costs $25 to sponsor a plaque, you put your (business) name on it and the sponsor gets to choose the car that wins,” Salvin said.
He also pointed to the longtime support of Norm’s Barber Shop owner in Oakdale, who comes to enjoy the cars and the cause.
“He comes every Friday night, buys about $40 worth of tickets for the drawing. If he wins, he gives half or more of it back,” Salvin explained. “And he also gives a free haircut every night for us to give away as a prize.”
Salvin said it’s that type of support that has helped the Lions Club raise thousands of dollars over the years for scholarships.
The Autumn Cruise itself features music, breakfast, a fashion show, treasure chest, vendor booths, lunch, awards and the judging of cars. Gene Adams serves as DJ for the Friday night gatherings and also the September cruise. He said Salvin and his wife Marylyn work like a well-oiled machine in coordinating the event.
“Two of the greatest people,” he said, adding that the Lions Club in general is the “most hard-working organization” that he has seen.
More information about registering for the cruise is available from Salvin at 209-838-7077; Bud Andrew at 209-815-5789; or Marylyn Salvin at 209-838-2077.