The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 20, 2013

Colorful cars cruise in to uptown for Auto Fair

BECKLEY — The parade of yesteryear’s glory slid down McCreery to Neville on Friday evening, an autocade of revving engines, loud mufflers, vaunting past with names like Crestline and Ranchero, a panoply of candy-apple red and baby blue, canary yellow and macho orange.

The Friends of Coal Auto Fair Uptown Beckley Cruise-In transformed uptown for an evening.

When the cars had parked along Neville, lining the street in front of McBee’s Pub and The Raleigh Playhouse, Beckley looked the way old-timers always say it looked in the heyday of uptown: crowded with automobiles and filled with people.

Crowds strolled along around the autos, taking pictures and gawking.

The hoods were up on some, proudly displaying the clean engines. Open doors showed leather interiors and push-button radio tuners.

The rows of beauties — the robin’s egg blue 1953 Ford Crestline belonging to Bob Johnson of Beaver, the pink 1963 Ford Ranchero ridden in by Charles Roger of Oak Hill, a red 1964 Ford Mustang owned by Jake Jarrell of Naoma, the red 1966 Volkswagen Bug of Richard Roles of Beaver — were shiny and freshly waxed, eliciting admiring comments and, occasionally, gasps of joy.

Brian Smith of Mabscott drove in his 1966 Dodge Charger, one of the first Chargers ever released and a car Smith described as “a labor of love.”

“I drove one like it in high school my senior year,” said Smith, who invited people to examine the leather interior and gear shift.

In 1966, the 383 engine, 4-speed Charger cost $4,126.50 off the assembly line. Smith bought it in 2007 for $16,000 and has spent another $9,000 restoring it.

“I’m just here trying to enjoy it and have a good time,” he said. “My wife (Wanda) and I get it out on nice days and at car shows around West Virginia.”

One black Z-28 Chevy Camaro, year and owner unknown, honored Benny Willingham, who passed away in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster April 5, 2010.

Children were amazed by the “old” automobiles.

Kyana Day, 9, of Fresno, Calif., pointed to a wine-hued Charger as her favorite car. She said the motors “sounded good” and “sounded loud.”

Those from other countries were as entranced by the scene of bygone Americana, too.

Pei-Jiun Lou, 22,  walked up and down the street, smiling in appreciation, taking photo after photo. A work-study student from Taipei, Taiwan, Lou offered a very American phrase for the Cruise-In:

“So cool,” she said.

She and two friends stopped at a temporary Chick-fil-A kiosk in Jim Word Memorial Park for dinner and spent the evening examining the “foreign” cars. Lou stated that the cars in Taiwan, even the older ones, are not similar in style to the antique American cars.

Business was good at the Cruise-In, according to Chick-fil-A associate Joanna Bare.

“We’ve had a wonderful crowd so far,” she remarked, adding that some food items had sold out within the first hour and that more were being transported to Word Park.

The car owners said they’d had a great time showing their cars at the Cruise-In.

Darryl Lilly, 51, of Beckley, lounged on a chair in front of his 1993 Nissan 290X. Only 8,320 of the cars were made, he explained.

He got his rare car in a very usual way.

“My son picked it out, and there it is,” he said, laughing. He added that he mainly enters it in shows and has only put 3,000 miles on it since he got it in 2007.

Lilly said he plans to come back to the 2014 Cruise-In and that he enjoyed the show Friday evening.

“As long as the rain doesn’t rain us out, we’ll be here all night,” he added.

Uptown Beckley Cruise-In organizer Jill Moorefield of Beckley Renaissance mingled with the car owners and guests.

The Boy Scouts Jamboree Band and Theatre West Virginia had performed prior to the car show in Word Park for Fridays in the Park.

“It’s been an awesome day, between having the Boy Scouts Jamboree and Fridays in the Park,” said Moorefield.

The Uptown Beckley Cruise-In is part of the Friends of Coal Auto Fair 2013.

The cars left the YMCA of Southern West Virginia at 6 p.m. and were on display uptown until 9 p.m.

Entertainment was provided by Old School Band & Robbie Carrico at Word Park, the Boatmen at Foster’s and Beckley Shag Dancers at McBee’s.

“American Idol” contestant Jada Vance performed at the FOC Auto Fair at the Paul Cline Memorial Soccer Complex during the Cruise-In.

Travis Tritt performs tonight; the opening act will be the Davisson Brothers Band.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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