Perhaps the only car show to be accessible only by ferry, the Harsens Island Charity Car Show is held every year to benefit the St. Clair Flats Association, which operates the Cecil R. Brownes Field and Recreation Park on the island.

Perhaps the only car show to be accessible only by ferry, the Harsens Island Charity Car Show is held every year to benefit the St. Clair Flats Association, which operates the Cecil R. Brownes Field and Recreation Park on the island.

Photo provided by Steven Gartland


Harsens Island to host car show

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published July 1, 2021

METRO DETROIT — Why did the car cross the river? To get to a car show, because that’s exactly what attendees of the Harsens Island Charity Car Show do each year.

Harsens Island is located at the mouth of the St. Clair River in Clay Township. On the Island is the Cecil R. Brownes Field and Recreation Park, which is named after the original owner of the property who donated the land to the St. Clair Flats Association. Since 2016, a car show has been hosted on the island to raise money for the association.

“We decided to start the car show so there could be a fundraiser for the Harsens Island St. Clair Flats Association. They maintain the park on the island. I started in 2016 with the first show,” said co-organizer Steve Gartland. “We had the first show that year, and we had approximately 150 cars, so we did it again in 2017 with 221 cars. In 2018, we had more than 250 cars, but in 2019, we had a problem because the field was saturated with water. Then came 2020 and just about everything was canceled. So now we’re coming back for 2021.”

Craig Baloga, the president of the Harsens Island St. Clair Flats Association, said the site is the perfect location for a large event like a car show, and the association is happy to receive the support from such an event.

“It is an 80-acre park for recreation and is open to the public. One of the benefits of association membership is members can use it and reserve the pavilion. It has tennis courts, a volleyball court and pavilions for events, as well as full-size football/soccer fields and basketball courts,” he said. “We also provide drinking water to island residents. We own, maintain and operate two stations, which provide that to the island.”

The car show will take place on Saturday, July 17, on Harsens Island.

“It goes from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. We start judging around 10 a.m. The ferry is $12 round trip, cash only. They get on the ferry, which is off of M-29, and it is right before the Algonac city limits. There’s a huge sign to show people where it is. The park is right off where the ferry lets off,” said Gartland. “The cost to attend is free to the public. Those who are bringing their car have to provide a $10 entrance fee. All proceeds go to the charity.”

The ferry is located at 3647 Pointe Tremble Road. More information can be found at www.harsensislandcarshow.weebly.com.

“We’ve had cars come from as far as the Thumb, Canada, and even farther. Although we probably won’t get any from Canada with the travel restrictions still in place. This is the only car show in the United States you have to go by ferry ride to get to,” Gartland said. “We have judging in 25 classes plus best in show. We give out 52 trophies. We have a number of raffles. We gave out more than $3,500 last time. We will have a DJ and trivia competitions for prizes that he runs.”

Baloga said having to take a ferry for a car show makes the Harsens Island event unique and gives it the opportunity to take place out in nature.

“I think that all the cars having to be ferried over adds to the uniqueness and charm of it,” he said. “It’s not held in a parking lot or industrial complex. It’s in a beautiful setting in a park. Not many events like this can say that. It’s a perfect setting for displaying the cars and having some fun-spirited activities that are fun for everyone.”

The funds raised will benefit the St. Clair Flats Association and be used to help fund operations and new projects.

“This relationship began when the association was looking to raise significant funds to make substantial improvements to the Browne’s Field Park,” Baloga said. “We would most notably like to put in public restrooms. That would further elevate the field and park for users. The idea was introduced to hold a car show on the field to help raise funds for these sorts of projects.”

Both Gartland and Baloga encouraged the public to check it out and attend a car show unlike any other.

“Come out and have a really good time,” said Gartland. “The music is great, the people are friendly and the amount of different cars are impressive. You’ll see some you’ll probably never see otherwise. We have some brand new cars and some from as far back as the 1930s.”

“It is a fun-filled day of activities, games and an exhibition of nearly 200 classic and custom cars,” added Baloga. “It provides a significant day of enjoyment to all attendees. There was a two-year absence due to high water levels one year and COVID-19 the next. Now we’re back and bigger than ever.”