VETERAN'S DAY CAR SHOW

BASTROP, TEXAS
NOVEMBER 13 – 15, 2009

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The following story was written by Ralph Gaines with a few edits by Bill Szelag and Debbie Hirsch.

For the past three years the three Texas OCA chapters along with other Oldsmobile collectors have gathered in Bastrop, Texas, a town of about 6000 people which is about 30 – 40 miles Southeast of Austin, for a great open car show sponsored by the Bastrop Area Cruisers (BAC).  The weekend starts with each chapter cruising into Bastrop on Friday afternoon, getting checked into the hotel and visiting with old friends in the parking lot.  Thanks to the efforts of Bill Szelag special rates were made available for us at the hotel.  Friday night there is a choice of activities.  First thing is to go to a designated area to pickup your registration package, goodie bag and t-shirt.  At the registration area a large outdoor screen is set up and an old fashion drive-in movie takes place.  Popcorn, drinks and snacks are available just like the old days.  (Hot dogs, chips and drinks were all 50¢ each!) Afterward, one of the local Oldsmobile couples, John and Karen Koenreich, open their home for a dinner and bonfire for the Oldsmobile attendees.  It is about a 5 – 7 mile cruise to their house and it is always neat to see a long string of Oldsmobiles heading down the road.  Great food with Buggs Threadgill of Houston providing brisket he had prepared as a special treat this year!  I don't know who all helped with all the trimmings though I do know many of the Austin people are involved.  After dinner we gathered outside for the bonfire and Mike Payton of the North Texas Club provided an entertaining recital of Cowboy Poetry. 

Saturday activities start early, like 6:30am, and of course it is still dark outside.  Cars are all soaked from heavy overnight dew, but so what, the cars will all get detailed at the show.  Trailer parking is not a problem since only two or three cars are trailered in – we drive the cars just as they were made for.  So why so early?  The show is held in the town center and we like to get all of the Oldsmobiles lined up down the main street.  Cars are parked as they arrive so we arrive in one long line of cars.  This year we had, by my count, 32 Oldsmobiles of which 29 were in that line of early arrivals.  Cars ranged in vintage from '49 thru '95.  The weather was perfect, clear skies with temperatures in the mid to upper 70's, which brought out a lot of convertibles – over half of the Olds were ragtops.  In addition we had one Chevy pickup and a Cadillac with an Olds diesel motor in our group of OCA members.  Another 6 - 8 club members joined the activities but for various reasons did not bring their Oldsmobile for the show.  Now at this point I do have to comment that one member from Houston, Dan Neiss, should be given a hard luck award.  For the second year in a row he has had mechanical problems in route, gone back home and driven up in his daily driver.  You would think that someone who owns 14 Oldsmobiles could find at least one that could successfully make the trip!!  So all totaled counting men, women, children and grandchildren we had well over 60 people in our little group.

Several of us volunteered to help in the judging.  Judging was headed up by Bill Szelag and another BAC member, Bill Dodge – nice name for a car club member although he is a Mustang guy!   I must say I have never seen judging done this way.  Three man teams, the leader with the main tally sheet judges the engine compartment, and the other two are given work sheets with one judging the exterior and the other the interior.  No judging trunks or under the cars.  Look only for quality of work.  Man it goes so much faster and it needed to be efficient as there were over 345 cars for judging. There was over 50 judges involved.  There were an additional 40 or so local club (Bastrop Area Cruisers) member cars that were also there for display only, bringing the total number of cars to just over 380.  The team I was on had the tri-five Chevy’s ('55-'57) – 21 cars to judge.  Now these cars are spread out all over the show field so you have to go find them and still we were done in less than two hours.

In addition to the car show there is also a whole section of booths set up with vendors selling a variety of arts and crafts merchandise across Chestnut Street on Main Street.  Then too the local shops and stores are all open for business.  There are plenty of excellent places to eat for sure and all within walking distance.  Plenty of restrooms and porta potties were also on site.  Good music this year by a DJ who is a friend of Bill Szelag.  Lot’s of camaraderie, visiting with old friends, as well as making new friends. Of course there were a lot of really fine automobiles to look over.  The nice thing about attending a show away from home is that you see a lot of cars you otherwise will never see locally.

Awards were the final event of the afternoon.  For the third year in a row Oldsmobiles took the club participation award for having the most cars present for judging at the show from one club.  The Oldsmobile class was randomly divided in two due to its size.  One of the two top first place awards went to our own South Texas President, Rick Walter, with his black '70 442 W-30.  The other went to Dick and Shirley Thomas of Leander (a town just north of Austin).  They brought two '53 convertibles, a white one restored to original condition and the other a black one built to Pro-Touring style and pulling a restored small Airstream travel trailer.  The white convert driven by Shirley won first place.  The runner-up awards in each Olds class went to Buggs Threadgill of Houston with his '70 black modified 442 convertible, and John Liconte of Dallas with his '83 Hurst/Olds.    The other two Olds runner up awards went to Donna Huggins in her 1995 red Cutlass convertible and Richard and Debbie Hirsch in their outstanding 1964 red 442 convertible – a nice combination in Olds history across four decades and both red!!

Next it was back to the hotel to quickly freshen up and then it was off to the Bill and Mary Szelag's for the evening.  Again lots of food prepared with the help of several of the Austin couples.  In addition there was a table full of various memorabilia items donated for a raffle.  Tickets were sold and the drawing of winners began.  So why is it that a handful of people always seem to win all the prizes and others seem to come away empty handed.  I don't know and don't really care as this time I came away a pile of neat stuff.  Again the proceeds went to the Veterans Support group called Soldiers’ Angels and over $230 was collected. By the way the proceeds from the entire BAC sponsored show went to two veteran’s support groups – a great cause for sure.   The party broke up around 10:00 which made for a long fun filled day.  At this point I had to head home as I had commitments Sunday.  A 90 mile drive home and I was there by 11:30, safe and sound and the car ran like it was suppose to, nary a problem.

Just because I had to go home doesn't mean the fun was over.  Sunday morning there was a brunch held at the Lost Pines Hyatt Resort for all those that attended the car show.  Cars are all parked overlooking a beautiful golf course and the Colorado River.  The food is great and reasonably priced at $10 a head including coffee and juice for all you can eat – more food!  It was a nice long leisurely brunch before breaking up and everyone heading home.  About 22 – 24 of the Oldsmobile people attended the brunch on Sunday.  We also enjoyed looking at all the decorated Christmas trees at the Hyatt. Mary Szelag worked on the bird-themed tree. What a great full weekend of car fun with some super Oldsmobile people.

I really have to hand it to all of the Oldsmobile people in the Austin and surrounding area for putting this weekend together.  It takes a lot of work organizing and hosting such an event.  The hosts of this weekend’s event are Richard and Debbie Hirsch, Ali and Linda Zalzala from Austin and Bill and Mary Szelag, John and Karen Koenreich, and Harry and Cheryl Green all of Bastrop, Texas.  We thank you so much for all of your efforts in making this one of the most fun filled weekends of the year.  If you are reading this and have not made one of these Bastrop BAC shows you are missing out on a lot of what our hobby is all about.  Put it on your calendar for next year as it is my understanding it will happen again.  And Dan, next time find one of those Oldsmobiles of yours that will make it the whole trip.