If you ventured into downtown Fairfax City this past Labor Day, you would’ve heard the Beach Boys blasting on speakers and the occasional sputtering roar of a car engine drowning out “Surfin’ USA.”
You would’ve encountered road blocks cordoning off two entire blocks around the City of Fairfax Fire Department Station 3 on University Drive. pandora bracelets People wandered up and down the blocked off street and lounged around in lawn chairs on the sidewalks, soaking in the pleasantly sunny, 80 degree weather.
The day’s main attractions, however, lined the road and spilled over into the nearby SunTrust Bank parking lot: more than 300 cars of varying vintages, all sporting shiny paint jobs or bulky hot rod engines.
The Clifton Lions Club of Virginia has hosted a car show on Labor Day for 17 years, turning it into a local tradition, but Sept. 5, 2016 was the first time that the annual event was held in the City of Fairfax instead of its original Clifton location.
“The City of Fairfax is the heart of Northern Virginia,” said Jeff Greenfield, who has attended the Labor Day Car Show for 13 straight years and helped organize its relocation. “It was a logical choice [with] easy access and lots of ability to have spectator participation.”
Clifton resident and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative board of directors vice chairman Jim Chesley launched the Labor Day Car Show in 2001 “just to get guys together that had cars,” as he puts it.
Initially featuring only around 25 cars for its first couple of years, the show started to take off after four or five years, when it made about $1,000 from registration fees, according to Chesley.
The show’s growing success prompted Chesley and his fellow organizers to reach out to local charities that might be interested in a partnership. They found the Clifton based Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, which offers horseback riding lessons to people with disabilities, and Life with Cancer, a Fairfax group in Northern Virginia’s Inova Health System that provides support and education to people affected by cancer.
The Labor Day Car Show has benefited Life with Cancer for the past 10 years and the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program for the past nine, raising more than $350,000 for both charities.
However, the car show’s success also made the location in downtown Clifton increasingly less viable, as the event ballooned to include 330 cars and 5,000 spectators in its 2015 iteration.
With the help of Greenfield, City of Fairfax cultural tourism and marketing director Joanna Ormesher, and other Fairfax officials, Chesley moved the show to its new Fairfax City location, which has room for up to 450 show cars.
The 2016 show attracted at least 305 cars, a good turnout for its first year in a new location.
“People see cars that they either used to own or they wanted to own and they still want to own,” Chesley said regarding the appeal of car shows. “People just enjoy seeing what some people can do to a car, to bring it back to either pristine shape or make a hot rod out of it.”
The Labor Day Car Show gave out 24 trophies, with 21 winners selected by participants who vote for their top five favorite cars in the competition. Two of the other three winners were chosen by City of Fairfax officials and the Clifton Lions Club, and the last trophy was a ladies’ choice pick.
Because all proceeds from registration fees, sponsorships, food and drink purchases, and donations went to charity, the Labor Day Car Show has a relaxed atmosphere that makes it welcoming to people who are new to show cars and casual passersby.
It’s an open show, meaning that all kinds of cars, even motorcycles, are permitted, and there aren’t any specific criteria for determining the show’s winners.
“Some car shows are only antiques, and some car shows are only what they call tuner hot rods, the newer stuff,” Woodbridge resident Rick Pozdol said. “This car show’s unique because it’s got everything in itIt’s nice to walk around and see something that you don’t see on a daily basis.”
Pozdol, a former Marine, brought a 2008 Pontiac Solstice to the show. The sleek sports car sat in the SunTrust Bank parking lot along with a layout of plaques and trophies that it won this year from shows in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Chicago, Ill.
“It’s a very rare car. It’s at a point where they don’t make them anymore,” Pozdol said of the Solstice, which was in full production from 2006 to 2009.
In addition to the cars themselves, the Labor Day Car Show featured a flag raising and national anthem ceremony led by the American Legion Post 177 honor guard, which is based in Fairfax. Hylton High School’s competitive engine building team also put on a demonstration where five students took apart and reassembled a Chevy 350 engine as fast and as accurately as they could. jewelleryblarc Hylton team completed their task in 16 and a half minutes, a faster time than usual since they were unencumbered by the judges who normally evaluate such competitions.
Along with getting the opportunity to show off their skills in front of an audience likely unfamiliar with competitive engine building, the students came to the Labor Day Car Show in the hopes of raising money to pay for the team’s trips to competitions, with the national event in Las Vegas, Nev., approaching in November.
The students say they got into competitive engine building because they enjoy working with cars and getting their hands dirty. They generally practice two times a week to prepare for competitions, with sessions lasting as long as four hours.
“One important thing is communication,” Jonathan Miranda, one of the team members, said. “If one of us is doing something, everyone else around us has to know.”
The City of Fairfax welcomed the Labor Day Car Show as a fun event that could bring the community together, particularly after it has recently been caught up in the turmoil of leadership changes after former Mayor Scott Silverthrone resigned in August.
Steve Stombres, a former City of Fairfax councilmember appointed acting mayor until a special election scheduled for Feb. 7, 2017, attended the festivities along with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D VA).
“One element of what makes this community special is we have a central location here in our community where we can do special events like the auto show,” Stombres said. “You get to see friends and neighbors. You get to meet new people. You get to shop and have good food and have a fun day with your family. What’s not to like about that?”