The Philomath Classic Car Show will run from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at Philomath City Park. (Photo by Alberthep/Getty Images via Canva)

It was only three years ago that the Philomath Classic Car Show’s organizers found themselves on shaky ground. The committee overseeing the summer tradition numbered just three people and they were all getting up in years. In short, the volunteer numbers just weren’t what they had been 10 to 15 years earlier.

But here in 2022, the car show appears to be on much more solid footing. The committee has grown to eight members and some younger volunteers answered the call to lend a hand.

“It’s just one of those things in the valley — we don’t have a lot of car shows and we definitely don’t have any that have been going on 20-plus years,” committee member Justin Fuszek said. “We want to keep things going and keep a great thing moving on for generations to come.”

The Philomath Classic Car Show on Saturday opens to the public at 9 a.m. and runs to 3 p.m. at Philomath City Park. Car owners can register from 7-10 a.m. and the awards will be announced at around 2 p.m. 

The car show, which debuted in 1997 and was known as the Marys River Rod Run over its first four years, would’ve celebrated 25 years in 2021 in a normal world. The pandemic led to the car show’s cancellation in 2020 and the following year, the event featured only an informal, small gathering.

So this summer, the car show’s organizers are identifying 2022 as the 25th year.

“This year is special to us — it’s our silver anniversary and it’s in dedication to Rod Holland,” Fuszek said. “He was a gentleman who was a pillar of the Philomath community who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago.”

For those who have been car show participants or visitors, Holland was the longtime voice of the annual event as its announcer. He died in March 2020.

“We thought it would be fitting to dedicate in his memory the car show,” Fuszek said. “In fact, all the flyers have a picture of him and his daughter on the front.”

Fuszek said the classic car show committee is trying to bring the event back to its original glory.

“It’s been a long time in the making and we’re just grateful to be able to have the space and the people and the community to help support it and keep this thing going,” he said. “I’ve got an old car, love cars, born and raised around them … As the years go on, we want to be able to continue this for the next generation and so on to continue the process.”

The car show features 18 judged categories, including modified/custom cars, stock cars, convertibles, imports/sports cars, custom trucks, stock trucks, vehicles “under construction,” junior/youth, “rat rods” and special interest vehicles. Some of those categories are split up into a specific range of years.

Judges will also vote on the “Fab 5” and one vehicle earns the “Best of Show” distinction.

A few other categories are also typically part of the show, including a “people’s choice” award.

Car show organizers said a lot of people typically show up in the late morning after the Frolic parade ends.

There will be a few food vendors on site, including Figaro’s Pizza and Kona Shaved Ice, Fuszek said. Activities include face-painting, a 50-50 raffle and other raffle prizes. Deejay music will also be part of the event.

For classic car owners interested in participating, registration on Saturday opens at 7 a.m. and costs $25.

The number of classic car owners participating in the show usually numbers in the neighborhood of 150 to 200. Late last week, the numbers were about a third of the way there but Fuszek said about 70% register on the day of the event.

“We found that we’ve gotten better numbers since we changed from the weekend of the Fourth,” Fuszek said, a change that occurred in 2015. “We moved it to coincide with the Frolic — not associated but just a part of the same week with the foot traffic.”

The Philomath Classic Car Show makes donations to various charities out of money it collects from the event. Just recently, the car show donated $500 to the Frolic & Rodeo in the aftermath of that organization’s grandstand fire.

“We don’t do it for the money,” Fuszek said about the car show’s primary purpose. “We do it to keep the thrill of automobiles alive and try to leave it a little bit better every year.”

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.