Monday, July 8, 2013

Back in the Burg for the Fourth

The Fourth of July in Fredericksburg, Virginia means attending the American Heritage Festival in downtown on Sophia St.  This event usually has over 9000 spectators milling through the many and varied vendors.  There is a 5K race in the morning and a parade then the end of the day’s adventures culminates with a primo fireworks display in the park by the river.  This is always a great day in Historic Fredericksburg, VA.  And they also have a car display….

We began attending the “car” part of the American Heritage Festival in 2006.  That year it was a sprawling show all along Sophia St and the little side streets that included the parking lot across from the parking garage.  In 2007 and all the years after that, the show was limited to the parking lot across from the parking garage.  In 2008 the organizer of the Heritage Festival contacted Brent, who was the contact person of Stafford Classics Car Club, about managing an event in the parking lot on the Fourth.  Since I was a member of the club at that time, I volunteered to manage the event in 2008.  Other club members; Dan, Andrew, Brent and Tony assisted me in the planning and execution of the event.  The theme was the evolution of automobiles in America, beginning with Dom’s 1919 Model T up to Stuart’s ’06 GT-40.  We had a great diversity to show the spectators.  We also secured a sponsor, VA Paving, so we could give all the participants that brought out their special vehicle something to take home them as a thank you for spending the day with us while they shared their vehicle with the spectators.  We also showcased the race car of Ray & Terry that ran as a supporter of Wounded Warrior Project.  We wanted the event to do something for someone else….not just the cars in the display.  Our little group did the same thing in 2009 except the theme was the American Pick Up; all vehicles were trucks from a 1923 model T to a 2008 Dodge Ram.  The spectators loved it and the Wounded Warrior Project race car once again raised the awareness quotient substantially for Veterans concerns.

There is an old established show in Culpeper, VA on the Fourth of July too.  We had wanted to attend it and some of our friends kept encouraging us to go and see.  So in 2010 we decided to give it a go.  We liked it so much we kept going in 2011 and 2012….it was a good show, see my other blog for the reports I made on it.
At a meeting in mid January this year our group, Cruisin For Heroes, decided we needed to explore attending the Fredericksburg event as part of our marketing strategy to showcase our current charity, Fisher House.  We began contacting Brent in mid January to ask if we could bring a small group of cars to his event in the Burg.  He was glad to have us back and I committed to bring 15 vehicles to his party.  One of the 15 would be the Fisher House racecar of Ray & Terry so we could again raise awareness for a Veteran’s cause.  We started making contacts in February for the event participants and had most of our lineup done by May.
At 6AM on the Fourth of July our little band of vehicles left the Stafford WAWA and cruised to Fredericksburg, VA.  We started arriving in the parking lot around 6:30 and the other participants started rolling in soon after.  By 8AM the lot was almost full and we began to set up for a hot and steamy day.  The Fourth always seems to be a very hot day….at the event in ’07 one of the club members was exhibiting early signs of heat stroke and we had to help him cool down quickly.  That same year the paramedics had to rescue a spectator from heat related stress.  So it’s usually hot at this venue and this year did not break the trend!
The event is a display, not a show.  There is no competition or stress about winning anything….we just stay near our rides and talk to the spectators as they roam through the display.  The purpose of the display is to provide the spectators with something else interesting to see while they visit the Festival and a person to talk to about each vehicle.  This is sometimes kinda tough because it’s natural for the participants to bunch up to socialize, which makes an intimidating situation for the spectators to ask questions.  So those of us who can, stay by our vehicles….often alone all day.  Stuart is a great example of that dedication to our mission….he parked himself behind his blue Cobra all day….all day!  He was up out of his chair talking to people most of the day, not much rest in the heat….but that’s how Stuart does it.  And Ray & Terry were interacting with people all day around their race car….putting kids in it for pictures and answering questions…..but that’s what they do.  Most of the participants were accessible for questions, that’s what the day is for.
This year I began to understand the impact we can have on people at an event like this.  Since I wasn’t “running” anything I took the time to watch the different interactions between spectators and participants.  Darryl told us of a man in a wheelchair that was being pushed by his son and he was giving the vehicles a cursory look until he came to Frank’s ’39 Chevy sedan.  He started pointing to the car and talking to his son….he got up out of the wheelchair and examined the car closer while talking to his son.  The car had struck a memory that he wanted to replay for a while….the man seemed energized and walked the rest of the display while he inspected the remaining vehicles!  I watched while a little girl shyly walked to our Fisher House donation barrel so she could deposit some money her dad had given her….as she left she glanced over her shoulder and gave me a quick little smile!  She probably didn’t understand about Fisher House but she knew she had done something good….she will remember that.  And so many Veterans stopped by to tell their story and so many people wanted to know what Fisher House was?  The first most asked question is; ‘what year is it?’ followed by; ‘I had one of those when I was a kid’ or ‘I always wanted one of those when I was a kid’.  Always interesting, always fun.  So….the day was a cathartic experience for me….all of us in our “car” community get recognition about our rides at shows and cruises….but for this deal we give back.  This is about the spectators, not us.
I was on my feet half of the day talking or taking pictures in the thermonuclear heat…..I think it was about 472 degrees!  But while I was sitting under the Cruisin For Heroes canopy, cooling off and talking with Fred and Denny, I was attacked from behind by a strange woman. She started rubbing my head and whispering in my ear….she was obviously delusional….maybe the heat.  Then she strolled across the shade and attacked Denny, fondling his chest and asking him if he had any money?  I was about ready to call the local mental hospital and tell them where their escaped patient was when the ladies in the canopy behind us, Debie, Arlene and the Princess, started to roar laughing.  They were hooting and hollering….laughing and pointing at us.  They had put that gullible woman up to that….they are so mean!  You know what they say about paybacks….grin
 Around 3:30 we started to break camp and leave for cooler climes.   A couple of us stopped by Family Diner and talked about what happened that day….we all had a lot to think about….but we did have a great day in the Berg.


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