Honks aplenty from passing vehicles the nearby highway greeted the slew of vintage cars arranged at the intersection of Highway 305 and Madison Avenue Tuesday, a surefire sign of summer’s imminent arrival as beloved as early sunrises, the disappearance of parkas, and baseball games on TV: the monthly Bainbridge Island Classic Car Cruise-In.
Organized by brothers Aaron and Micah Strom of Modern Collision Rebuild & Service, the free monthly car show has transformed what is perhaps the island’s most visible intersection into a popular gathering spot for both families and more serious gear heads alike for more than a decade on the last Tuesday evening of every month from May through August.
The Strom brothers, and their trusty volunteer assistants, man the grill, and hamburgers and hotdogs are for sale. A $5 donation per meal includes a water or soda, and all proceeds from the event benefit Helpline House’s Project Backpack, a program which provides school supplies and new clothes for Bainbridge students in need.
It may seem an incongruous cause for a car show, but the whole atmosphere of this event is unique. There is none of the insular tribalism and exclusionary tech-speak that so often drives away the less devoted driving machine disciples from such gatherings.
The show has grown through word-of-mouth mostly, by reaching out to local car clubs, and its sheer proximity to the heavily traveled highway. In fact, the show has come a long way from its early days — even if it hasn’t actually come very far.
The island tradition began in 2003, and spent its first season in its nearby original location at Strawberry Hill Park, according to event co-founder Jim Peek.
The new location has surely helped grow the event exponentially, he said, though, at first, it was actually a bit of a problem.
For the first three seasons that the show was near the highway, Peek said, there was at least one fender bender on the main road during each show as passing drivers craned their necks to check out the display.
Reportedly, nobody was hurt.
The sight seems to have become more expected now, as the show shifted from novelty to island tradition, and the accident rate has dropped to nil.
At first, Peek remembered, the show was held every Tuesday through the summer. It quickly became apparent that such regularity, however, diminished the overall excitement surrounding the show, so it was decided after that first year that it would be held once a month instead.
What has not slacked off, however, is the show’s lofty goals. Even from the start, the show was about more than just cool cars.
In addition to the $5 meals at the Classic Car Cruise-In, islanders looking to chip in can buy a backpack and fill it with needed supplies, just donate some supplies, or consider making a cash donation at the event.
Donations are also accepted in the form of gift cards.
There remains no fee or advance registration required to bring a classic or special interest vehicle to the show, which often sees more than 100 cars in attendance.
The final show of the season, slated for Tuesday, Aug. 28, has historically been the most attended.
Visit www.bainbridgeislandcarshow.com to learn more about the Cruise-In and Project Backpack.
Those looking to showcase their cool ride are encouraged to show up early, he added, as show space is typically filled within the first 30 to 60 minutes.