Each summer during the Philomath Classic Car Show, it’s not an uncommon sight to see an 80-something making his way up and down the rows of cars, lingering a little longer perhaps alongside certain makes and models that makes one wonder if he’s visiting a familiar “face” from the past.
On the other end of the generational spectrum, an inquisitive teenager peers inside a roadster to admire a predecessor to what he now sees through modern-day automotive technology. Several others representing the decades in between have their own unique experiences among the fascinating display of classics.
The 26th annual Philomath Classic Car Show returns Saturday, July 8. The event will run from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Philomath City Park. Admission is free and parking is available in the park.
Greg Henderson, himself a classic car collector and among the group of dedicated volunteers that works to put on the show, certainly enjoys the visuals of all those vehicles rolling into Philomath each summer. But more than that, he loves the conversations.
“It’s the people, just BS’ing with the older guys and learning stuff even about my own cars that I didn’t know,” Henderson said. “I think that’s all around for everybody.
“Like, you’ll get an 80-year-old guy out there and he goes, ‘You know what that’s on your car for? … Well, no,’” Henderson continued. “And he’ll explain to you why it’s there and why Henry Ford did it or why Chevrolet did it and I think that’s the coolest part.”
Henderson plans to bring a 1929 Model A, 1925 Model T, 1939 Chevrolet and 1955 Chevy pickup.
A handful of vendors will be on hand including Grindz, which specializes in Hawaiian food and will bring out its food truck. Figaro’s will also be on site with food and beverage choices. And Kona Ice will be there to cool people off with shaved ice. There will also be face-painting and SOS Garage and Philomath Fire & Rescue will have a presence at the event as well.
There are also plans for a 50-50 raffle and Henderson said a number of good prizes will be available to win.
‘We’re not going to let it die’
Beginning in 2018, the car show committee took on full control of the event after the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce’s board voted the previous fall to cease its involvement. The volunteers were few and those that they did have were aging. Plus, the budget needed to be worked on with a need to cut down on expenses.
“We brought Sean Olsen and Justin Fuszek in, which was some new blood, and they’re both car guys and had actually done some of the parking and some of the judging,” Henderson said. “So Adrian (Ferbrache) and I and Jane (Callahan) — each of us has said for the last six years that this is our last year but we’re not going to let it die.”
Committee volunteer Rod Holland, who died in 2020, was the car show’s longtime announcer. Last year during the 25th anniversary, the event paused about halfway through with several car owners starting up their vehicles and revving their engine and honking horns for a full minute.
For a lot of the classic car enthusiasts, the annual event in Philomath represents a reunion.
“It’s fun watching people meet people that they see every year, especially the guys who are getting older,” Henderson said.
An old-timer when it comes to car shows, 76-year-old George Smith never grows tired of an opportunity to show off his latest modified roadster. Called “Purple Haze,” the “chopped three-window roadster two-door coupe” features a 1932 Ford front suspension, 1955 Olds Rocket 324 cubic-inch motor and a 1957 Olds steering wheel — just to identify…
Typical registration numbers so far
Henderson said Thursday afternoon that car show registrations had typical numbers for a little more than a week before the event. Those numbers tend to pick up as the date gets closer with some participants registering on the morning of the car show.
“We did find out that there’s three different car shows on that day — two in Albany,” Henderson said. “But you know, you can throw a dart at the calendar and there’ll be three car shows on any given weekend.”
Henderson anticipates 100 to 150 registrations leading up to and including July 8 with an overall participation number that could reach 200. He said the most he’s seen in his 10 years of involvement was 240.
For participants, car show organizers will be set up beginning at 7 a.m. — two hours before it officially opens to the public.
The show features 25 show class designations with categories for cars (modified/custom and stock), convertibles, imports, trucks (custom and stock), under construction, junior/youth, rat rods, special interest, survivor (not altered in any way) and electric vehicles.
“We added the electric class this year — it’s time … there are vintage electric cars that are over 25 years old,” Henderson said.
To register in advance, the committee has a form available on its website.
One of the few car shows on grass
One of the main attractions for Philomath Classic Car Show participants and visitors comes down to the venue. Philomath City Park, which is located on South 23rd Street just south of Applegate Street, provides a grass surface.
“There are not a lot of car shows on grass and in a park,” Henderson said. “About one in 10 car shows are actually on grass — most of them are in parking lots — and in the summer that makes a big difference.”
The city park venue also provides conveniences that include new bathrooms, the covered area that’s connected to the Randy Kugler Community Shelter and a playground for youngsters.
“I think the other great thing about it, now that we moved it to correlate with the Frolic, is you go in the morning and go watch the parade and then everyone comes to the car show because there’s about three hours in between the parade and anything else starting at the Frolic,” Henderson said.
Organizers can certainly see the evidence of this trend with a predictable wave of car show visitors not long after the parade ends.
“It’s just droves of people … it’s just crazy,” Henderson said.