Photos and Images by Brian Argyle
For three decades now, car shows in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area have been well attended by both exhibitors and spectators. In fact, the Qualicum Beach car show was mentioned by Oprah Winfrey as ‘One Of The Top Ten Things To Do On Father’s Day,’ and the car show in Parksville was featured on a TV episode of ‘My Classic Car’ with celebrity host Dennis Gage.
The appeal to many is that we are treated to a tremendous variety of cars with different, sometimes outrageous looks, lots of shiny metal and wild paint colours—a veritable feast for the eyes. And who wouldn’t want an excuse to visit our beautiful area in the summertime?
The automobile, evolving from its ‘horseless carriage’ days, has been a fixture of our society for over a century now. We often hear the criticism today that ‘all the new car’s look the same,’ but looking back, it’s always been that way! Sure, there’s the odd exception when some designer tried to think ‘outside the box’ or where special edition luxury or sports cars are involved. But by and large, if we consider typical family car designs, for any given year or two there were more similarities than differences between the various manufacturers.
Car shows are truly an interactive combination of museum and art gallery. Often we’ll see cars from the 1920’s through the 1970’s, along with some newer, specialty vehicles. Where else can we see the evolution of automobiles and pop culture trends—both mass produced and custom—spanning that many years, all in one place at the same time? And to be able to converse with the owners about their rides’ presents a unique learning opportunity for young and old alike.
Annually, our area’s car shows are produced by unpaid volunteers from local organizations who invest significant amounts of time and effort to plan and host their events. They have the generous support of many commercial sponsors who contribute products, services or money, without which the events just couldn’t be the same. Over the years, proceeds from the shows have pushed hundreds of thousands of dollars back into local charities. Kevin Varey, president of the Seaside Cruizers Car Club says, “We’re basically a service club, disguised as a car club.” But the common thread is that they’re all ‘car guys’.
The first big show each year in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region is the three-day Father’s Day Show n’ Shine put on by the Seaside Cruizers. There’s a car cruise (parade) through the PQB area on the Friday evening, a daytime Poker Run, and an evening Street Dance on Saturday, all leading up to the big show on Sunday. There have been upwards of 600 cars on display, with estimates of as many as 15,000 spectators crowding into the downtown area.
A bit later in the summer, the August B.C. Day long weekend sees two area events. The Ocean Idlers host a show on the Saturday in Coombs, often with cars you don’t see at other shows. The Van Isle Shriners Show & Shine Club (a subset of the PQB and Nanaimo Shriners organizations) starts with a car cruise on Saturday evening followed by their big Sunday show on the grass by the beach at the Parksville Community Park. All the shows usually include a pancake breakfast and other food vendors onsite, so you can take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds.
The local car shows have quite a positive impact on our economy. Both exhibitors who come for the weekend, and spectators who flock to view the cars, all spend considerable time and money in the area. For some local businesses, show days can be their busiest of the year.
Len Thomson, owner of Bailey’s in the Village, was involved in the early days of the Father’s Day car show. He remains as enthusiastic as ever about the Show n’ Shine in Qualicum Beach. “Sure, you lose parking for the day on the street outside your business, but that’s offset by the thousands of people passing by,” he says. Thomson believes the number of visitors who return at other times of the year is an ongoing—but not always recognized—benefit.
To some show car owners, their cars are time machines capable of transporting them back to their youth, or enabling them to finally have a car they yearned for ‘back in the day’. Some, artisans in their own right, use an old vehicle as a blank canvas with which to articulate their mechanical and artistic vision. Gail and Locky Hay’s yellow “Nuclear Banana” is a 1947 Chevrolet Cabover truck—on the cover—created using chassis and drivetrain components from decades newer vehicles, blended together so it can go down the road safely and comfortably.
Others, like Jack Taylor, the third owner of a 1931 Model A Roadster hot rod (the second had it for 50 years), visualize themselves as ‘caretakers’, responsible for nurturing and maintaining them while in their possession, eventually handing them off to a new owner.
Many feel a combination of these traits, but in common is the immense satisfaction and enjoyment their vehicles bring.
To get in one, turn the key, hear them come to life and drive off down the road on a sunny day, has to be experienced to be appreciated. And while individually their carbon footprints may be high, collectively their environmental impact is pretty negligible.
The Ocean Idlers are promoting “Take A Kid To A Car Show” for their upcoming event. It’s a great idea and who knows what feelings it might implant in the young. If the show cars of today are to avoid extinction, they will someday need to be picked up by a new generation of ‘caretakers’. Will they be up to the task?