If someone with a classic car or a unique vehicle can drive to Moab within eight hours, there’s a good chance that person will be in town this weekend.
The April Action Car Show returns on Friday, April 24 and runs through Sunday, April 26 at Swanny City Park and other locations around the community.
Moab Rotary Club member Doug McElhaney said that event organizers are not particular about the kinds of vehicles they welcome, so onlookers can expect to see everything from vintage 1920s-era automobiles and classic motorcycles to hot rods and modern-day Ferraris.
“We try not to be specific to anything,” McElhaney said. “We’re open to anything they want to bring in.”
This year’s event kicks off on Friday with a “Rod Run” to Castle Valley. Pre-registered riders will meet at Swanny City Park at 9:30 a.m., and from there, they will head off at 10 a.m. sharp for a scenic drive up state Route 128 – which is also known as the River Road. Lunch will be available at Red Cliffs Lodge for $10 per person.
For many other people, the real fun begins on Saturday, April 25, when vehicles and Rotary volunteers begin to stream into Swanny City Park well before sunrise.
“We show up at five o’clock in the morning and start parking cars,” McElhaney said. “Just about every Rotarian in town (helps out). Even a couple of retired ones show up.”
McElhaney himself will be volunteering and showing off his 1969 Camaro SS, which he bought online and picked up in person in St. Louis.
Throughout the day, spectators can wander around the park to check out custom paint jobs, modified engines and one-of-a-kind vehicles. They can also pick up food and memorabilia from vendors at the show, while enjoying live music by J.C. Hackett.
In keeping with the classic car theme, event organizers will be holding a couples-only sock hop dance contest from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. that afternoon.
Contestants must be at least 16 years old, and they must be dressed in 1950s-era costumes. Awards will also go to the best dancers and the best-dressed couple, as well as the man and woman who have the best ’50s hairdos, will receive prizes.
The official day ends with a trophy celebration at 3 p.m., and once the awards have gone out, McElhaney said that everyone is eager to hit the streets for an unofficial Saturday night cruise.
“They like to park and look at them, but they really like to drive them,” he said. “Moab is one of the few (places) that lets them drive their cars.”
Participants are also expected to ride along Moab’s Main Street on Friday night, although McElhaney anticipates that Saturday night’s unofficial cruise will be a bigger draw for many people.
“They’re street legal vehicles, but they draw a lot of attention.”
In past years, cruises have drawn 8,000 to 10,000 spectators. Despite the sheer numbers of people, McElhaney isn’t aware of any problems in recent memory.
“The police keep a pretty good handle on it,” he said.
After the Saturday night cruise and a continental breakfast on Sunday morning, the car show will end with a 9:15 a.m. ride along state Route 313 to Dead Horse Point State Park.
The overall event is a fundraiser for the Moab Rotary Club, which took over the management responsibilities three years ago from local resident Jim Mattingly.
Proceeds from the fundraiser help support scholarships to Grand County High School and Utah State University-Moab students. The Rotary Club also offers financial support to groups that come to it with a funding request, including Seekhaven, the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, Grand Area Mentoring and the Youth Garden Project.
“If they submit an application to us and we’ve got the money, we give it to them,” McElhaney said.
Other funds go toward polio eradication efforts around the globe. Along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International is one of the world’s leading fighters of the once-common disease.
Thanks largely to those combined efforts, the last known polio case in the U.S. was reported in 1979. Today, the disease is isolated to a few regions of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Taliban-dominated parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We’re almost at the finish line,” McElhaney said. “We want to get rid of it; we want to move on to something else.”
As a reminder of the disease’s legacy, an iron lung will be on display at the park, courtesy of its owners from the Rotary Club of Salt Lake City.
“It looks a little bit like a little submarine,” McElhaney said.
The cylinder-shaped device is a strange sight to younger people, and McElhaney is glad that it’s foreign to many of them.
“It gets people talking,” he said. “It’s great that most people don’t know what it is.”
April Action Car Show is back this weekend
We’re open to anything they want to bring in.
When: Friday, April 24 through Sunday, April 26
Where: Swanny City Park and other locations
Cost: Free to spectators; car show participants pay $35 to register
For more information about the April Action Car Show, go to moab21.com/moab_car_show/.