BY MANUEL C. “MANNY” CORREIRA
Special to the Phoenix
Local men and women who served in the military will have front row seats for the second annual Classic Cars “War Veterans Tribute Cruise In,” which will be held Sunday, Sept. 16, at the RI Veterans Home in Bristol.
Registration is from 9 a.m. to noon. Awards will be presented at 3 p.m. Admission is $10 per vehicle, and dash plaques are available for the first 500 entrants.
Judging will be done by a committee of resident veterans. Since the awards are “choice” awards, all types of auto enthusiasts are encouraged to enter. There will also be a parade of vehicles by a reviewing area for those disabled veterans who would otherwise not be able to see the show.
According to Jerry O’Connor of Seekonk, one of the event coordinators, last year’s cruise was attended by more than 300 entrants and was a great success.
This year, that number could double. There has been talk that as many as 500 or 600 vehicles will be parked on the Veterans Home grounds this coming Sunday.
“It was such a great show last year,” said Mr. O’Connor. “We netted approximately $5,000, and all the proceeds went to the veterans. This year, we’d like to raise $10,000, if possible.”
All proceeds go to the R.I. Veterans Home Fund, which supports veterans’ needs such as trips, functions, as well as the purchase of TVs, clothing and other personal items.
As many participants explained last year, seeing the look on the veterans’ faces with the many classic vehicles on the premises, “made all the difference in the world.”
“We really made their day,” said Mr. O’Connor. “It was a very heartwarming and gratifying experience.”
Last year there were eight organizations that sponsored and ran the event. This year, that total has more than doubled.
“We have 18 club sponsors this year,” Mr. O’Connor said. Among the event sponsors are the Bay State Street Machines, Bristol County Street Rod Association, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Corvette Club of Rhode Island, Downshifters of New England, Mass Cruisers Auto Club, Model “A” Restorers Club of Massachusetts, Mustang Club of New England, R.I. Street Rodding Association, and the U.S. Vets Motorcycle Club.
Mr. O’Connor said there will be a howitzer on the grounds and 16 vintage military vehicles. There will also be a U.S. veterans’ motorcade escort up the main road leading to the Veterans Home.
“To those who didn’t make it to this event last year, this cruise is about the residents of the Veterans Home,” Mr. O’Connor said. “Oftentimes, these vets are lonely with not much to see and do, particularly if they have trouble getting around. So, with this cruise, we are able to bring them some enjoyment, thank them for their service, and show them that they have not been forgotten.”
Bristol native and car cruise enthusiast and participant, Bob Correira, emphasized the fact that area car clubs came out in full force in support of this event last year.
“We loved doing this for the veterans,” he said. “It should be an even bigger and better event this year.”
Mr. Correira, who is also helping out with event preparations, will display his 1946 Street Rod Ford with Chevy components. He says he’s really looking forward to this special day.
Doug Botelho will ride his Harley Davidson motorcycle to the Cruise In and take time to view some of the most expensive, detailed classic cars imaginable.
“I couldn’t believe the number of vehicles we had last year,” he said. “It took a couple of hours to look at all the cars.”
Warren’s Jim Calenda will bring his 1936 Ford coupe to the show with hopes of getting another award. Last year, he received an appreciation award at the show.
“I’m going back just for the veterans,” he explained. “They mean so much to everyone.”
For more information, call Jerry at (508) 761-8020 or Bob at (401) 723-2016, or email [email protected]
The event will also feature food, beverages, ice cream, music and a raffle.