NEW LONDON – More than 300 cruisers queued in Ocean Beach Park’s parking lot on Sunday afternoon for the Corvette show “Vettes at the Beach.”
However, there is more to the annual auto show than loud engines and impressive paint schemes.
“The Corvette people are like family,” said Mark Christiansen, Corvette Only Vice President and event organizer.
For Corvettes Only Inc. , a local club for Corvette enthusiasts, invites all Corvette owners to display their masterpieces for a good cause. Private owners and other clubs alike are making their way to what Christiansen calls “the biggest corvette show” in southern New England. Participants pay a $20 entry fee for the event, with 70% of the proceeds benefiting the charities of the club’s choice.
The club selects five charities to contribute to once the funds are registered and the day is over. Christiansen and club president Bob Securanza both predicted that more than $10,000 would be collected between entry fees, a 50/50 raffle and gift basket. In previous years, the club has made donations to Make-A-Wish, Safe Futures, and local food banks.
“The people of the Corvette are very special,” Securanza said. “It really is. The camaraderie is unique.”
Every generation of Corvette cars has been represented, going back from the original C1 from the 1950s to today’s C8. Awards were given for the best car and runner-up of each generation, as well as a Best in Show award and one for the club with the most representation in the event. The club with the most participation received a check for $1,000 to be donated to a charity of its choice. This year it was the Corvette Club in Rhode Island.
Even those who stayed away with devices admitted that’s not what the event is all about.
“I’ve been spending some extra time in your car, making some changes, things like that, it’s an admission of that,” said Trevor Hartmann, whose 65th anniversary C7 Corvette won Best in Class. “But other than that, I think it’s just for us to be here and enjoy the company of other people who have the same passion as you.”
Hartmann, 49, said he’s been involved with Corvette for the past three decades. He said he started with Model in 1975 when he was 19 years old. Now, he’s a member of the No Rules Corvette Club, where he and other Corvette owners meet weekly for cruises, go out to dinner and get together for holiday parties, after auto show season is over.
“It’s great here,” Hartmann said. “This is the show we look forward to every year because it’s here on shore, well attended, all from cruisers.”
“Nothing seems to attract much of this here on the coast,” he added.
This was the Keith Brothers’ first auto show, and in 1965 his softshell, completely original, took the runner-up title of the C2 generation.
“I’m a very old C2 guy, but I see all the new Corvettes and the amount of cars that are here today,” Brothers said. “It’s such a big fraternity for everyone. It’s great to see everyone go out. It’s great for the city too.”
The terms “brotherhood” and “family” were common responses from participants, but it couldn’t be more true for the father and son who teamed up to win Best in Show.
Tom Cooper, 78, and his son Tom Cooper, 49, took home the grand prize with their 1956 convertible at its premiere. They said they had owned the car for 41 years and had spent the last six years restoring it because they were “tired of looking at it.”
“We said let’s do something better,” Cooper remembers his son saying. “It looked just like that, except it’s so much better now.
Cooper the Younger described the experience as a “once in a lifetime”.
For Corvettes Only Inc. It has been around since 1976 and has made many shows in its history. This was the second year the club held the event at Ocean Beach Park and it was their biggest show to date. Securanza and Christiansen said it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Dave Sogro, who gave him a recognition award at the conclusion of the event.
“We really like the place,” Securanza said. “We’re getting along really well. Everyone who comes here seems to be enjoying it. It’s just a good general atmosphere.”
“They have really helped develop this event from last year to this year and we will continue to have it here for years to come,” said Christiansen.
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