At the push of a button, the pine forest derby cars raced down the track, which landed on the front porch of the Saberling mansion. The children applauded and shouted as the wooden cars crossed the finish line – they had won their racing license and were finally racing at Mr. Kingston’s car show.
In previous years, the Howard County Historical Society’s summer event was called the Automotive Scavenger Hunt. However, Alice Pierre, chairwoman of the Kingston Motor Show Committee, said the celebration of Howard County’s automotive history could be expanded.
Both the Sweeper Hunt and the car show had activities for children to learn about Kokomo’s automotive history. But the waste hunt did not attract a large crowd.
Hoping to rekindle community interest, Pierre turned to retro car owners and asked if they would agree to participate in a car show.
She also approached the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, who provided volunteers and a track for a pine forest derby.
Nearly 30 retro cars took part in the event. Initially, Pierre said, the commission aimed for 10. Each of the cars was in its 50s or older. Most were taken to the event.
The presence of real retro cars, Pierre said, brought a visual and tactile element to the summer event.
“We wanted to start something new,” she said. “We did it based on previous events, but we wanted to do something that would continue and involve as many people as possible.”
Jeff Shiveli, an automotive historian, noted how important it is for young Kokomo residents to be interested in the city’s automotive history.
“If you don’t remember, Kokomo was a car town. “We wouldn’t be here without people like Kingston, Haynes and Aperson.” “This is not just the story of Kokomo, not just the story of Indiana. This is American history.
Continuing, Shiveli noted that automotive history is of international interest. When people look at retro car parts and find that they are made in Kokomo, he said, the city becomes a real place for them.
Steve Ortman, whom Pierre is credited with as the main organizer of the auto show, parked his 1932 Chrysler Imperial in the front yard. In the 14 years he has owned the retro car, he has traveled approximately 14,000 miles in it.
“You can’t force kids to like these things,” Ortman said. “But let’s hope you bring them here and they like these things.”
Nearby, Michael Pulimas demonstrated the characteristics of his 1931 Ford Model A. He explained that it took eight steps to start the car.
“In 10 years, you can see the leap in technology,” Shively said, citing his 1941 Cadillac 6267D Convertible Coupe, which requires drivers to simply turn the key and push a button. “You can see this story at this event.”
Let’s learn to play
Before the children could compete in derby cars from the pine forest, each of them received a racing license with four empty fields. To compete, they were instructed to complete four tasks that would win stamps in the vacancies.
At the same table where they received their licenses, children will be asked to identify a historic car artifact, such as a Haynes cap, an Apperson radiator emblem or a Kingston carburetor. The easiest element to identify, according to Randy Smith, who worked at the station on Saturday, was a radio.
The children were also expected to turn to Jerry Nelson, who was dressed as former Seiberling Mansion owner George Kingston, and ask who his friend was. “Mr. Kingston” will tell them that he is friends with Henry Ford.
Although Nelson suspected that some children had missed his part of the license requirement, he enjoyed the role and told people about Kingston’s life.
In the lawn of the mansion, the children were instructed to ask what was special about the Ford Model T. With an actual Model T used in demonstrations, they learned that each Model T used a carburetor manufactured by George Kingston.
Finally, the children were tasked with comparing and contrasting the Model T with the Apperson.
Every hour during the event, which was divided into two days, the children could win prizes from the derby. Displayed items such as Pez dispensers, Hot Wheels and Star Wars figurines were donated by Kokomo Toys and CJ’s Car Wash for the event.
Jim Riddle, a representative of Scout Pack 2537, explained that the trick of the race is to choose the heaviest car for the derby. Laying the track did not contribute much to the car’s speed, he added, although the lanes would have contributed to a 0.03-second speed difference.
Although the rain forced the event to end early Friday, Pierre said it was a success. She added that the time for cooperation on Saturday morning gave her great hopes for the day.
“We were already very enthusiastic,” Pierre said. “We can’t wait for next year.”