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Car enthusiasts get a few hours to show off Sunday

Karl “Smiley” Cheeks brought his 1977 Ford F-150 to the 29th Annual Cruise-A-Palooza on Sunday, June 23, on Main Street in Butler. Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle

When the rain started Sunday, June 23, the plastic covers came out, because there are only so many cruises classic vehicle owners can take their rides to in Western Pennsylvania, and the Cruise-A-Palooza is one of them.

About 1,200 vehicles crowded Butler, for the 29th annual Cruise-A-Palooza, an event by the Rodfathers of Butler. Dan Cunningham, publicity director for the Rodfathers of Butler, said the event has experienced some bad weather in the past, but people usually still check out the vehicles while they can.

“At the Farm Show Grounds, we just shut it down, we had a rainout over there,” Cunningham said. “That was about six years ago. Things are great today.”

The Rodfathers choose a charity to donate proceeds from the event to, but the Cruise-A-Palooza is meant to be a community event first and foremost, with Cunningham saying there is no charge for vehicle registration or anything else, other than raffle tickets and merchandise.

The Cruise-A-Palooza is so popular, Cunningham said, because people who own classic cars want to take any chance they get to show them off. Some people spend years restoring cars dating back to the mid-20th century, so car cruises give them the chance to share their knowledge with other car enthusiasts, and learn from them as well.

After four years of work, Cunningham finally finished restoring his 1966 Ford Mustang GT, which he brought to the Cruise-A-Palooza for the first time since its completion.

“It was stripped down to nothing, and I had to bring it all back up,” he said. “It goes out four or five times a year, that’s it. That way I keep it pristine. It’s like a brand-new car.”

Many people who showed off a vehicle at the Cruise-A-Palooza had a favorite make or model that they stick to when buying and restoring a classic vehicle. For Wayne Weckerle, of Harmony, that make is the Pontiac Fiero, which is the first American-made car with its engine in the middle.

Weckerle said he is drawn to the look of the Fiero, which is low to the ground with an aerodynamic look. He said although the car looks fast, the speedometer tops out at 85 miles per hour, because that is how fast they could make them in the 1980s when the Fiero was built.

Weckerle has put only about 20,000 miles on the vehicle over the two decades that he has had it, miles mostly gathered on his trips to Illinois and Michigan for Fiero anniversary events.

“It’s just a pleasure to take to car shows,” Weckerle said.

The cruise also gave groups like the Butler chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America the chance to show off some vehicles with historical importance. The club brought its 1922 Standard Steel Car Company car, which is one of only a few the club is aware of in the nation.

Dan Sum, vice president of the Antique Automobile Club of America Butler Old Stone House Region, said Standard Steel Car Company, later Pullman-Standard, only built about 10,000 of the cars, and the club restored the vehicle to take to events around the county.

According to Sum, the car is the only one of its make that still runs, which is possible thanks to the work of the AACA Butler chapter.

“We try to take it out as much as possible,” Sum said. “I don’t believe they had to do a whole lot of work, but it did need some touching up, some TLC.”

The Rodfathers will choose a charity to donate the proceeds from T-shirt sales and raffle tickets to at a group meeting later this year. Although the Sunday cruise was cut a little short by the rain, Cunningham said the few hours the event had accomplished its goal.

“My favorite part is seeing uniquely different cars every year — there’s usually a dozen or more that are really different,” Cunningham said. “It’s common to talk to someone, ‘I have been working on this for five years,’ and they finally get to bring it. They’re as happy as a pig in mud.”

Main Street in Butler was packed with people, cars, vendors and entertainment for the 29th Annual Cruise-A-Palooza on Sunday, June 23. Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle
Riley Comperatore, left, and Felicia Duffield sell their custom-made apparel at the Cruise-A-Palooza Sunday, June 23. Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle
Fred Allen, left, and Gil Gilson take a look at an antique car on display at Butler's Cruise-A-Palooza on Main Street on Sunday, June 23. Holly Mead/ Special to the Butler Eagle.
Shriner Club members Jerry Robison, left, and Rick McClean admire one of the classic cars on display at Main Street Butler's 29th Cruise-A-Palooza Sunday, June 23. Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle
Nash Zaccari, 11, takes a photo of a car he enjoyed looking at on Sunday, June 23, during the Cruise-A-Palooza in Butler. Holly Mead/ Special to the Eagle
Carol Kelly, left, and Wayne Weckerle sit in Weckerle's Pontiac Fiero, which he brought from Harmony to the Cruise-A-Palooza in Butler Sunday, June 23. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle
The 29th Annual Cruise-A-Palooza took over Butler’s Main Street from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 23. There were vendors, food, live music and more. Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle
Phoebe Rieder, 8, poses for a picture for her mom, Bonnie Belak, in front of the Herman Volunteer Fire Department’s antique fire truck Sunday, June 23, at the Cruise-A-Palooza event on Main Street Butler. Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle
Cars line up at the 29th annual Cruise-A-Palooza on Sunday, June 23, on Butler’s Main Street Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle

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