By Richard Fritz
The long awaited, prestigious car show, Cars at Kiawah River arrived on a dark, dreary Saturday morning in October. I volunteered to help with the event because it is such a popular and well-attended event, and I knew the planners appreciated all the help they could get.
This year’s venue was brand new for everyone. After several years, the former Kiawah location became a bit of a strain on resources and residents prompting the move to the Kiawah River location from Betsy Kerrison Parkway that affords easy access and less congestion to the event.
From a show participant’s or show attendee’s perspective the new venue for the Kiawah show looks like a good choice, but for the pre-dawn arrival of the Operations Committee and the Volunteer Crew, it was a somewhat daunting adventure in the dark, although most of us knew what to expect.
I arrived at 6:00 AM and, from the number of functioning people on hand at that time, they must have been on the road much earlier than me. I got up at 4:00 and was on the road by 5:00. It was raining; however, without traffic I still allowed an hour to Kiawah. Any other time of day, I’d plan on a two-hour trip.
It was a messy drive with tail-gating pick-up trucks blinding me on the interstate. Wet road grime and wheel spray added a fresh layer of filth to my well-waxed Sunbeam, but that’s part of a car show’s mystique. Isn’t it? When I turned into Kiawah River it was a slow, dark drive along the twisty roadway to the operations area where I was greeted by moving dots of light from the head-lamps worn by people getting ready for the day.
I was directed to the British Car section of the show field, where I would be working my shift. I parked my car but couldn’t see any details of my surroundings, just head-lamps shining in my eyes as the volunteers spoke to me. Backing my car onto my parking spot was done by faith in the guy who was directing me because, between the blackness of the hour and the glare of the headlamps, I couldn’t see a thing. I finally decided to wait until there was some semblance of light to line my car up appropriately. When I got out of the car, I could feel the sponginess of the grass and knew it was going to be a challenging day in the park. And to top off working with a soggy show field, this guy drives past me and asks for directions to the Kiawah Cemetery.
As I made my way to the Volunteer tent to collect my headlight and radio, I felt the dampness in my shoes and wished I had worn my goulashes for the day. It was still drizzling, and my shirt was wet, so I got a grip on my situation and said it’s going to be a great day, no matter what.
As daylight was breaking, the rain gave way to overcast skies and the ability to see where I was going. Cars started arriving at 7:00 and my parking area partner, Ken Smith, got to work as the show field filled up quickly. We had a steady stream of cars for about an hour, and then it slowed down. Ken and I were able to take advantage of that time to wipe our cars down and clean up the dirt on the wheels and rocker panels. Cars continued to arrive slowly for the next two hours and by 10 am we were done.
With parking out of the way, I took a breather with a fresh cup of coffee and a blueberry scone. Coffee and sweets were free for all volunteers as well as a lunch voucher, tee-shirt, hat, and an excellent goody-bag. The perks were appreciated… thank you.
Around 11:00, I picked up my camera to photograph the cars in my assigned area. There were 39 British cars and 6 Youth Enthusiast cars but lots of empty spots that suggested many stayed home due to weather.
I don’t know the number of cars invited to participate but it was apparent to me that there were quite a few no-shows. However, once the rain stopped, it never rained again, and, for the most part, it remained cool and comfortable under cloudy skies for the rest of the day. The fact that my shoes, socks and pants were soaked didn’t deter me from chronicling the owner’s cars. It was disturbing to see the tire damage done to the fresh sod though. Tire ruts were evident, and I saw one irrigation control box submerged by a car driving over it. The ground was so wet it was like walking on a sponge. Water was squirting up from my footsteps and I heard grumblings from several owners about the mud and debris on their cars from the wet ground conditions.
Besides my 63 Alpine GT, the only other Sunbeam at the show was Lee Higdon’s Tiger MkI (both above or right depending on your screen size!)
The British Cars shared the field with The Young Enthusiast Class of cars which brought out an eclectic collection of automobiles from a diverse group of gear-heads in the 16-39 year-old bracket who found their roots in the popular ‘Cars & Coffee’ gatherings around the Low-Country. (These cars are marked in the gallery below)
I finished taking pictures of the ‘Brits and the Utes’ around 12:30 when I headed to the food trucks for lunch. On the way I stopped at the Scott and Natalie Bluestein Collection to check out their amazing stable of prestigious cars. I have seen these cars, one at a time, at British Car Day in Charleston over the years but never together as they were today. The collection at Kiawah River included a 1931 Auburn, a 1966 Aston Martin DB6, a 1961 Alvis, a 1956 Jaguar XK 140, and a Jaguar XK 120. They made an impressive statement. (These cars are also marked in the gallery below)
When I got to the food trucks I found barbequed pork, brisket and/or Greek specialties. Both smelled and looked great. I decided on brisket, and it was outstanding.
At 1:30 the judges notified the class winners who drove their cars to the awards area where they received their awards. At this point I was exhausted, and quite damp and dirty. I decided I had enough fun for the day and packed up to go home. I bid my friends good-bye and made my way off the field and back to Summerville. It was a busy day.