POSTED: September 2014
John Craddock of Wendell stood next to his red, four-door 1957 Bel Air at the Cool Rides Car Show and talked with pride about the hard work he put into restoring the classic car and the fond memories it conjures.
“I bought this car in 1993,” he said. “The original color was Canyon Yellow. I had one almost just like it when I was in high school. I worked on it off and on for 14 years, and worked on it straight through the last two years after I retired. Ninety five percent of the car is original. I did all the work myself.”
Craddock was one of 253 vehicle owners that participated in the fifth annual Franklin County Technical School Cool Rides Car Show, held Saturday, September 27 from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. on the school grounds. The event was the largest ever, with more vehicle owners than previous years and a crowd of about 1,000 spectators. This is an increase of about 30 percent in both participants and spectators over last year’s event.
The show included not just vintage cars, but other types of automobiles, motorcycles, trucks and farm tractors. Under picture perfect skies, crowds not only viewed an impressive array of vehicles, but also enjoyed a live DJ, activities for kids like face painting and a coloring table, and a chance to vote for their favorite vehicles. For the first time, the event included Step By Step Animal Adventures, a petting zoo operated by Dakota Whitmore, a 2014 FCTS graduate from Orange, which included alpaca, lambs, goats, sheep, and a calf.
“It was fun to bring the petting zoo to the school,” Whitmore said. “This has turned into a big event. It’s nice to come back every year and see it grow.”
Taste of Tech, with menu items prepared by the FCTS Culinary Arts students and teachers, offered hamburgers and hot dogs, and homemade items like a pulled pork sandwich, autumn bisque soup, and a root quesadilla, as well as water, coffee, and soft drinks.
Brenda Fortin, FCTS Culinary instructor, said she and her students had been busy cooking and serving food continuously all day
“This nice weather brought everybody out,” Fortin said. “We’ve been running around like crazy. It’s been nonstop since 10 a.m. The hand-cut French fries were so popular we sold out of them halfway through the day.”
Besides the Culinary program, the event was a real school-wide effort, as FCTS students from a number of organizations like the Electrathon Racing Team, National Honor Society, SkillsUSA, FCTS Store, Pre-Employment Program and others operated vending booths. The school’s Cosmetology program provided fingernail painting and hair braid weaving.
Engraved aluminum plaques created by FCTS Machine Technology, Pre-Employment and Carpentry students were awarded to the top 25 winners for favorite vehicles chosen by the public.
Other activities included “Bash It For A Buck” where, for the price of a donation, participants took whacks with a sledgehammer at an old car. The Turners Falls Fire Department was on hand to demonstrate the Jaws of Life apparatus.
Craddock usually goes to eight or nine car shows a year, but had never been to Cool Rides before this year. He was impressed with the quality of participants and turnout.
“I always wanted to come here, and this year everything worked out right,” he said. “It’s a good show. There are lots of nice cars here.”
Norman MacLeod drove his 1969 Pontiac GTO, known as “The Judge,” down to the show from Keene, New Hampshire. Like Craddock, he had never been to Cool Rides, and decided to participate on the recommendation of a friend.
“A friend of mine was here last year and said it was a fun, very well run car show,” MacLeod said. “It’s beautiful. There’s a real diversity of vehicles, from old to new. Everybody likes something different.”
MacLeod said he bought “The Judge” from an owner in Boston and did the work at Fran’s Garage in Keene.
“I did all of the detail work,” he said. “The amount of hours of hunting on ebay for parts is phenomenal.”
Jim Laliberte and Nancy Pulley of Easthampton relaxed on lawn chairs behind Laliberte’s 1932 Ford three window Coupe. The two came to Cool Rides last year, but Pulley said, “it’s even better this year.”
Laliberte built the car from a kit, and it has a fiberglass body and a small block Chevrolet V-8 engine. He added his own touches by installing air conditioning, power disc brakes, power windows, and other amenities.
“It has all of the creature comforts,” Laliberte said. “It had a radio in it, but I took it out. I like listening to the sound of the car better.”
FCTS Superintendent James Laverty gave credit to faculty, staff and students that volunteered to work at the car show.
“This show is a success because of them,” he said.
Co-organizer and FCTS Pre-Employment Program Instructor Philip Foisy said there were more students than ever volunteering this year.
“The students were hard working and they were here on time,” he said. “I’m especially happy with the student volunteers.”
Show co-organizer Thomas Specht, an FCTS mathematics teacher, noted that Cool Rides is the largest car show in Franklin County. He said that changing the location of the show from the rear of the school building to the football practice field was a major upgrade.
“We found the formula to the set-up,” Specht said. “It’s much better than in the past.”
Foisy said the new set-up made the event more festive and better showcased the school than in the past.
Specht thanked the school committee for its continued support of the event throughout the years.
According to Foisy, the response from show attendees and participants was very positive in general.
“I stood at the gate and thanked people for coming as they were leaving and a couple of people said it was the best show they had ever been to and they would see us next year,” he said. “I got all positive statements from everybody I talked to. All around I think people were very pleased.”