Mount Airy’s downtown proved a draw for the North Carolina chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Friday as more than 40 cars with club members parked on Main Street and toured the city.
“We were excited when this tour group contacted us about coming to Mount Airy,” said Downtown Merchants Association President Phil Marsh. “They liked the fact they could come here, park their cars for everyone to enjoy and spend the day visiting and shopping here.”
Marsh said members of the tour group were also thrilled about participating in a ghost tour that afternoon.
“It’s really great clubs and groups of different people want to come and visit our downtown. We’ve really got a great Main Street,” added Marsh. He said the association plans for cruise-ins to continue.
Marsh said events like the tour group visit bring in many local persons as well as those from other states.
“I’m getting great comments on this from participants,” added Marsh. “They think its really nice for us to do things to get people here. We want people to know we appreciate them coming to town.” He said plans have already been confirmed for a group of Packard automobile
He said the tour was a cooperative effort between the association and the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and chamber Director of Tourism Jessica Roberts.
Marsh said the association’s next big event will be the annual trick-or-treat on Main Street scheduled for Halloween from 3-5 p.m. A costume judging contest will also be set for Oct. 31 from 3-5 p.m. with categories for children of all ages.
Roberts outlined the importance of the AACA tour.
“It’s crucial to keep people interested in our area,” said Roberts. “Many I talked to from this club are from New York and New Jersey. They’re excited the downtown is really rolling out the red carpet for them and some I’ve talked to have returned after previous visits with other groups.”
Car association hostess Joann Hawks and Phyllis Oehman of Cana, Va., said they were having the time of their lives thanks to actors portraying Mayberry characters Otis and Barney Fife.
“Everyone was so tickled to have Barney at our reception,” said Hawks, who is from Winston-Salem. The Old Salem Chapter from Winston-Salem hosted Friday’s hub tour. She explained that a hub tour is where the club members stay at one hotel and go tour different areas each day.
“I’m just impressed they (the antique cars) made it up and down Pilot Mountain this morning,” said Oehman. “Everyone was so tickled to be here. It was like receiving a big surprise gift. I’m from around here and I’m really enjoying this.”
Car association president Jeff Oaks said that the club is a national organization celebrating its 77th year with the North Carolina region having 14 chapters. He said the tour was planned for three days, ending on Saturday.
“I got a ticket but I really liked Barney,” joked Oaks.
He said owning an antique vehicle can be a costly endeavor. “Sure, the original cars are expensive. Our oldest car here today is a 1919 Ford convertible,” said Oakes. “Lots of times our members buy the cars in pretty rough condition and do all the repairs. It’s the love of the hobby that keeps us going, like little boys that don’t grow up.”
He emphasized that it is fun to restore the cars and members feel they have something when they are done.
“The guys spend a lot of time in the garage and the the women get to go,” quipped Oaks. “We don’t fix them and just let the cars sit there. We take them out. Our guideline is 25 years or older. This is historic preservation that you can drive.”
Oaks said the club has national tours as well as state-level events and local chapters hold their own weekend events.
“This is a great way to see local places,” added Oehman. “On our last day of a tour in Wilmington we took a two-hour cruise on a Mississippi River boat. We always close the events with a banquet.”
She said on the Wilmington tour she had just been discharged from a hospital following surgery. She was given the spirit award by the group for her efforts for this.
Persons wanting more information on the club can to to the website www.aaca.org/.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.