Several thousand classic car enthusiasts and folks just looking to explore downtown on a sunny Saturday, strolled along San Benito Street, in Hollister, July 16 for the 30th Annual Street Festival, Car Show and Chili Cook-off, to ogle some 250 gleaming cars and trucks whose heritages dated back as far as the 1920s. It wasn’t hard to match any particular vehicle with the age of the person peering into the windows or under the hoods. 1960s Mustangs, Road Runners and GTOs brought nostalgic looks from Baby Boomers beginning to be bent with age. Millennials read signs telling tales of restoration of cars in which they had never driven and wondered why all the bother and expense.
Gordon Machado, Hollister Downtown Association president, said the street festival has grown every year, except during the 2008 recession.
“It’s been good to the city financially, but what’s more important is the focus on downtown,” he said. “And it’s not just locally. If you look at the cars, they’re coming from all over Central California, bringing into town the owners and their families who become familiar with Hollister. It also brings in people from nearby communities, so it pretty much showcases Hollister.”
He said that in addition to entry fees bringing income into the association, there are T-shirt sales and raffles.
“It’s a good fundraiser,” he said. “Every year we increase the number of cars by about 10 percent. Once people come and see the number of cars and the competition, they keep coming back because of the camaraderie.”
Along with the cars, the festival offered visitors two stages with live entertainment, a kids’ zone, chili and hotdogs, free watermelon, and even a car raffle for a Shelby Cobra by the Wounded Warriors Project.
The classic car competition categories included: Best in Show, Antique (pre-1930), Best Corvette, Best Low Rider Car, Best Mustang, Best Paint, Car Club Participation Classic (1961 – 1975), Custom Modified, Longest Distance Traveled, Martha de la Rosa Memorial, Modern (1976 – Present), Muscle (pre-1973), People’s Choice, Pick Up, and Vintage (1931 – 1960).
While many of the 250 cars came from communities as far off as Pleasanton, Sacramento and even Southern California, many locals were resting in the shade of downtown buildings ready to talk up their treasures parked in front of them. Councilman Raymond Friend and his family were near a bright purple 1927 Ford Model T that he helped a friend restore in the 1970s. He said over the years he forgot about the car and upon learning that his friend had died, his friend’s widow told Friend that she still had the car out in the garage.
“We went out to take a look and she leaned in the window, turned the key and it started right up,” he said.
After buying it, Friend said all he had to do was dust it off and drive it home. He said it needs a little touch up, but is still in perfect driving condition. He takes it out a couple times a month to keep it running smoothly.
Every car has a story behind it and an owner ready to tell the story. Todd Larue and his wife, Kristine, moved to Hollister from Tracy a year-and-a-half ago. Kristine is the one who has always liked fast cars, Todd said, as he stood sentry duty behind her bright red roadster.
“My wife’s father originally built a T-bucket and then started to build this one, but then he passed away,” he said. “My wife and her brother took it and finished it up. We’ve been running it out to different little shows and won some awards.”
Hollister resident Phil Pospishek proudly showed off his 1923 Ford.
“I bought it as a basket case, put it together and got it running last year and now I’m just out having fun with it,” he said. “When I got it, it was just a truckload of parts and I bought it for $1,500, put a few thousand into it and now I’m driving down the road, having a good time.”
He said the restoration took more than a few years as he searched for parts. He said this was the first time he had done a restoration and the street festival was the first time he entered it for show.
“It’s always a work in progress and I’m changing things all the time,” Pospishek said. “When something pops up and I get an idea I put it on the car. I might start another project, but I’ll always keep this one because it was my first.”
Another Hollister husband, Leonard Pellissier, was watching over his wife’s gold ’63 Corvette as his wife, Mary, busied herself looking over the competition along the street. This particular car had a fascinating story that closely associated with his wife.
“The first owner of this raced at the Fremont Drag Strip for a little over two years,” he said. “My father-in-law purchased it in 1965 to fix it up for my wife as a high school graduation present. He was an ex-mechanic who owned his own business. He put it in the garage where it remained for approximately 46 years.”
He said his father-in-law passed away and the car recently went to his wife. He told her he would clean it up for her.
“I did more than just clean it up,” Pellissier said. “I did a frame-off restoration. When she came in and saw all the parts scattered around she said, ‘where’s my car?’ and I said, ‘it’s right here.’ It took a little over a year and was done in 2013. It’s a show car, but I drive it to the local events.”
What was truly remarkable about the Corvette was that even with recent miles put on the odometer, the total original miles are only 1,695, most of which, he said, were run up a quarter a mile at a time at the drag strips. He would not give an exact figure what the restoration cost, but said it was in the six figures, and that his wife had been offered considerably more than that to sell it. When she showed up, she said the car would not be sold in her lifetime, in honor of her father.
Volunteer, and Army veteran, Mathew Gregory, was busy helping people fill out entry forms for a raffle sponsored by the Wounded Warriors Project for a chance to win a blue and white Shelby Cobra reproduction.
“We’re giving away this continuation series 427 Cobra that was built in Las Vegas, Nevada, by Shelby American and is a reproduction of the original,” he said. “The drawing will be Jan. 21, 2017 at Carmel-by-the-Sea.”
Gregory said anyone interested in winning the Cobra in support of Wounded Warriors can go to www.cobraraffle.com for information. He said the winner does not need to be present. Part of the grand prize also includes $30,000 in cash, which he said could help pay for the taxes on the car, as well as the cash itself.
At the 400 block on the corner of Fourth and San Benito streets, kids were running from one inflatable bounce house to another, shooting Nerf-style arrows at soda cans and plastic bottles, and clambering over a vintage fire truck, as the adults listened to free concerts by local musicians or partook in a number of chili offerings as judges Hollister City Councilman Karson Klauer, San Benito County Supervisor-elect Mark T. Medina, and San Benito County Sheriff Darren Thompson attempted to choose the best of the best.