Utica car show attracts thousands of vehicle enthusiasts, car owners

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published August 12, 2019

 A classic car from 1941 is displayed during the car show.

A classic car from 1941 is displayed during the car show.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


UTICA — Downtown Utica turned into a classic car amusement park this past weekend as thousands gathered to view all kinds of vehicles at the annual Gasoline Alley car show.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 10, classic cars took over downtown Utica along Auburn Road from the Utica Public Library to Cass Avenue.

The car show has been a big part of the summertime in Utica and continues to grow each year. The car show is hosted by the Utica Parks and Recreation Commission and features many different types of cars, including dragsters and hot rods.

“I’m a big fan of all the cars that showed up. I especially see all the hard work these car enthusiasts do week in, week out to get their cars prepped for the show,” said Thom Dionne, theUtica mayor. “To be quite honest, my favorite ones are the military vehicles brought in by the Arsenal of Democracy. They take (the vehicles) to all sorts of shows and benefits, and they do it out of the goodness of their heart — they don’t ask for money and show up. When we asked them to be a part of our community, they come out and they get involved, and it’s our friend John Lind, and they are just great people.”

The Detroit Arsenal of Democracy is a Michigan nonprofit company created to help educate the public about American history.

The event was free and anyone could attend to see the cars.

Rick Michelon, who is a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, and his daughter, Megan Michelon, are the owners of USA Tire in Utica. They are the main organizers of the event.

This year, the weather was perfect and hundreds of different vehicles lined Auburn Road. Vintage car-related items filled parking lots for visitors to view.

Vehicles ranged from military vehicles to hydraulic cars.

Elizabeth Baloga and David Baloga, of Shelby Township, brought their 1927 Essex Super Six Sedan that was made in Detroit.

“It was my grandfather’s car. He bought it and wanted to drive it around. He went to church, mostly putts around, and asked if we can fix it up. We fixed it up and said, ‘Grandpa, can we drive it around to car shows?’ He drove it to church; we drove it to car shows. We had a ball with it, and then my grandfather passed away in 2010 and he left it to us. It’s 92 years old and it’s all original. It’s got original interior ... the floorboards are actual board. No air (conditioning). No radio,” said Elizabeth.

She said they have been working on the car for 22 years.

“My grandpa bought it in, like, 1985, and we got it and started playing with it in 1996.”

It has a three-speed transmission, a six-cylinder inline engine, and it goes about 35-40 miles an hour.

Elizabeth said it’s their third year bringing the vehicle to the show.

“When the weather is nice like this, the cars, they come out of the woodworks. The people get together, they talk,” she said.

Raymond and Terry Girten, of Richmond, brought their 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

“We put corner fenders on it, gave it a paint job, repaired the motor — we had a 370 motor in it. It was blown up and old,” said Raymond.

“He did all the work,” said Terry.

“We found it in a guy’s backyard and bought it, and we brought it home and started working on it. Three years to get it running,” said Raymond.

This was their first time at the show.

“The show is awesome. Today has perfect weather and it’s going to be a nice day,” said Terry.

They said they look forward to coming next year with two cars and not just the one.

Terry said she likes the Chevy Novas and Raymond said he likes the Chevy El Camino cars that were in front of USA Tire.

In addition to the car show, a gas show and swap meet was located in the Utica Fire Department parking lot. The gas show included everything that has to do with vintage gas and oil memorabilia. The swap meet featured various dealers selling gas pumps, car parts and auto-related memorabilia.

This year included a few things that were different from previous years.

The first SnapOn tool truck was at the event this year, which is a vintage 1923 roadster. USA Tire was open during the event with more to see, including vintage signs, lights and parts.

Claude Strong, of Utica, who helped direct all the cars to the lineup, said he enjoyed watching the cars roll up.

“As a volunteer, I love being here watching all the cars show up. The high-octane fuel and the roar of the engines is just amazing,” said Strong.

Firefighters had a fire boot out at the event to collect any donations to support the Great Lakes Burn Camp. The camp promotes healing, self-esteem, confidence and the general well-being of burn-injured children.

Food trucks, such as the Imperial House and Dilla’s Delights, were available during the event, and a DJ played music throughout the show.

Tickets for a 50-50 drawing were sold and various prizes were given out in the afternoon. Proceeds from the car show benefited the American Cancer Society and other local charities.