This story has been modified since its initial publication to reflect a correction.
A record number of classic cars and other vehicles cruised into town for the biggest Wheelin’ Walla Walla Weekend in the event’s 24-year history.
Drawn, no doubt, by the presence of “My Classic Car” host Dennis Gage and a crew filming footage, many of the newcomers to the event also discovered Walla Walla in the process, said Downtown Walla Walla Foundation Executive Director Bonnie Bowton.
“Even without a national TV show being here, I think they’ll be back,” Bowton said. “So many people had such a great time.”
Participation this year grew by half again as much as last year’s record number. For this year’s event, 657 vehicles lined Main Street — and a few side streets — for Saturday’s Show ‘n’ Shine. That compares to 438 entries in 2018. This year nearly that many vehicles alone — 432 — participated in the Friday night kickoff Classic Cruise through town. That event, which included tweaks to the route due to road construction, was followed by a meal for 750 people at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, Bowton said.
Bowton said 73 percent of the participants came from 50 miles or more, and many arrived Thursday, meaning the show likely delivered a healthy shot of activity for hotels and restaurants.
Bowton lauded the organization of Events and Public Relations Manager Cindy Frost, along with volunteers, including Kasey Kelty and help from the Walla Walla Drag Strip crew for parking all 657 vehicles in just a little over two hours Saturday.
She said the success of the weekend was also due to Walla Walla Police Department help and the city for getting barriers up for the weekend. Members of a motorcycle club RIDER of Washington also led the cruise.
“All the pieces came together to make this an absolutely standout show,” Bowton said.
She said this year’s Neal Larson Memorial Award went to Jim Bluhm, who worked tirelessly on the event, and his 1970 Chevy Malibu. Best of Show went to Chip Chapman of Salem, Ore., for his 1941 Willy’s CPE.
Those who couldn’t make the event will get a chance to see it on the small screen through Gage’s program sometime in early 2020.
Meanwhile, the foundation said plans will start at the beginning of the year for celebrating the event’s 25th year.