For the last 60 Augusts, hundreds of antique car owners and thousands of automobile enthusiasts have descended on Stowe to celebrate what they love.
The Stowe Antique and Classic Car Meet has provided decades of iconic moments — the parade of flivvers and jitneys and luxurious 1930s touring cars that wound through town every year, the lineup of Fords and Chevies and Cadillacs and hot rods that glistened at Main Street dance parties, Nichols Field packed with some of the coolest cars ever to grace a 20th-century highway, and the inevitable traffic backup on Route 100.
Last weekend’s 60th version of the show was likely the last one in Stowe.
The Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts, the nonprofit organization that stages the show, couldn’t make a deal to keep using Nichols Field, and no other location in Stowe met the show’s needs.
So, the 2018 show will be at Farr’s Field in Waterbury.
One of a kind
“This is the best show,” said Dan Buckley of Shrewsbury, who has been coming to Stowe with his antique cars for 15 years.
“It’s really a great place to share interests,” said Gail Boardman, 80, an Underhill resident who is one of the longest-serving members of the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts. He’s been to nearly every one of the 60 shows in Stowe.
He was already a club member when a now-defunct Canadian automobile club teamed up with its Vermont counterpart to create the Stowe show.
“They asked us to host it,” Boardman said, mainly because Canadians wanted to come to an event in Stowe.
His favorite memories of the show include times when things didn’t go so smoothly, like the rain-soaked year when two bulldozers were running around the clock, pulling people’s antique and modern cars out of the mud.
It was a horror show at the time, but “we can smile about it now,” he said.
He owns several antique cars, but his 1918 Locomobile Sportiff has been a big hit every year.
“Cars like that are what makes the Stowe show special,” said Dan Noyes, chairman of the car club.
John Vetter has been coming to the show since the mid-1980s, bringing what he calls “a little flavor” in the form of antique tanks and military vehicles.
“That first time we showed up in a tank, we were made extremely welcome,” Vetter said. “They told us, ‘It’s an antique vehicle; make yourself comfortable.’”
Vetter is a member of the Green Mountain Military Vehicle Club, a presence at the Stowe show for years. He remembers well the smiles of young parade-goers as they watch the military vehicles roll by, and their excitement then spreads to their elders.
“People just see them and smile,” Vetter said.
The “chance for a hands-on look” when the rigs are parked at Nichols Field is a big draw, too.
The size of the Stowe show, where 800 cars are common, and its atmosphere are what make it so great for Buckley.
“It’s big, but it’s still so friendly,” Buckley said. He helps coordinate a smaller show near his hometown. Small shows are usually open and friendly, but things change at many shows once the field surpasses a few hundred cars. But the Stowe show has managed to maintain its open, friendly character.
That atmosphere has kept Buckley and his wife coming back. This year, they brought their unrestored 1982 Avanti II.
Buckley also loves watching the Stowe show take shape. The Buckleys always arrive a few days early and park their motor home in the same spot at the nearby campground.
“Watching everything go up, and then come back down” adds a whole new dimension to the show, Buckley said. He and his wife also spend a few days in Stowe after the show to “do the full tourist thing.”
This year’s show was the very first for Waterbury Center resident Brig McCain, who was stationed at the show’s flea market, selling sumac walking sticks, framed car ads from old Life magazines, and dinner bells made from the hoops of a 100-year old silo.
“We wanted to come last year but got rained out,” McCain said. “We’re having a great time.”
Things were still a little slow for McCain and his wife on Friday, but he expected things to pick up on Saturday and Sunday.
“I thought this would be a good place to show it all off,” he said.
The show’s move to Waterbury brings mixed emotions for the people involved.
“We are thrilled to have them coming,” said Karen Nevin, executive director of Revitalizing Waterbury. Her organization had a booth at the Stowe show this weekend, telling spectators and car owners all about Waterbury and what they can expect at the 2018 show.
Members of the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts also seem excited.
“Stowe has an ambiance all its own,” said Boardman, “but Waterbury has a bigger, drier and flatter field. We’re going to make sure the first show in Waterbury is really great.”
“We are going to be fine,” said Duane Leach, club co-chair and one of the main coordinators of the show. “We’ve been planning for the last year to get all our ducks in a row.”
Buckley’s not sure where he and his wife will stay during next year’s show, and he’s disappointed it’s leaving Stowe.
“It’s not going to be the same. It won’t be the Stowe show,” he said.
Noyes had to agree on that point; he expects the show to bear a new name in 2018 but isn’t sure yet what it will be.
McCain feels a little differently. The show will be in his backyard next year, and he thinks it will be great.
“I’m definitely coming to the show next year,” he said. He knows John Farr, the owner of Farr’s Field, and expects him to be a good host.
“He’s very community-minded,” McCain said.
“I think the move is going to be excellent,” Vetter agreed. His organization has hosted a military vehicle show on the Waterbury field for the last few years, and things have always gone well.
“John Farr and the town have been very welcoming,” he said, and he expects the larger show to be welcomed in the same way.
Nevin has no doubts about the benefits for Waterbury.
“It brings 10,000 people to the community each year. We know it will benefit our town and businesses,” she said. She knows Waterbury doesn’t have enough hotels and inns to accommodate that many people, and expects many to continue overnighting in Stowe.
“The car show brings together almost everything we are trying to do, and we are thrilled to be part of bringing it to Waterbury,” Nevin said.