Vintage Rides car show cruising back into Wheaton in June
Ken Klein will recapture his youth and a summer tradition when he cruises into downtown Wheaton in his navy blue Oldsmobile convertible, top down.
He was one of the original organizers of classic car nights in Wheaton more than twenty years ago. Now, Klein and his 1975 Delta 88 Royale convertible are emerging out of pandemic hibernation to help revive the Vintage Rides car show.
"There's a lot of pent-up interest among the old car guys," Klein said.
After a year's absence, the car show will come roaring back in June, and all the shiny chrome points to brighter days this summer in downtown Wheaton.
A year ago, COVID-19 and construction on Front Street forced organizers to pull the plug on Vintage Rides. This year, the Downtown Wheaton Association had to get creative to make it happen.
Organizers couldn't close down Front Street while other major downtown routes are shut down because of ongoing road construction and outdoor dining.
Instead, the car show will move to the parking lot of Clare Woods Academy, a venue that will keep the event within walking distance of restaurants, provide ample room for social distancing and put a spotlight on the work of the nonprofit organization, organizers say.
"This is a way to revive the car show after COVID and also use it as an additional promotional event that's going to be tied into everything else that we're doing this summer," said Elle Withall, the Downtown Wheaton Association executive director. "We're making downtown Wheaton the destination in the Western suburbs through so many different initiatives, and this is just another added part of that."
Vintage Rides will run two Friday nights a month in June through August. A $5 car registration fee is required and will benefit Clare Woods Academy, a nonprofit school that helps children and young adults with developmental and learning disabilities to become employed and self-sufficient.
During the car show, Clare Woods students will highlight some of the academy's programs as well as The Cardinal Gift Shop, a downtown retailer that sells handcrafted jewelry, cards and other items made by students in a transitional vocation department.
"We think the partnership is one that's going to be mutually beneficial," Clare Woods Development Director John Miller said.
The parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Union Avenue can fit at least 100 cars. Food trucks also will roll up to the lot, along with DJs.
"There's a lot of buzz about it," Miller said. "There's a lot of people that want the car show back."
Klein will bring back the Oldsmobile ragtop he bought himself in the fall of 1974 when he was 27. He must have taken the brand's slogan to heart: "It's a good feeling to have an Olds around you."
Sure enough, all these years later, Klein is still showing off the convertible and swapping stories with other car enthusiasts.
"'Aunt Martha used to have a car like this when I was a kid growing up,'" Klein said of one of the reactions to his smooth ride.
Those kinds of memories will be rekindled when the Wheaton resident and his friends help fill up the lot with their spiffed-up beauties. He's close with the owner of two Oldsmobiles, a 1958 and a 1964 -- "they're both gorgeous" -- and another guy who's collected about 14 Model A Fords from the 1930s.
"We like talking to people about our cars," Klein said.
The friendly atmosphere will return when Vintage Rides kicks off the season on June 4. Other car show dates are set for June 18, July 9 and 23, Aug. 6 and 20. The event is free to the public.
Car owners can register online at downtownWheaton.com. Registration for all dates will open up at 9 a.m. May 26. The DWA expects spots to fill up fast.