‘Vettes steal the show in Oak Harbor

Matt Braswell tells his son, Brendan Braswell, 8, about the 1921 Dodge Brothers Touring Car at the North Whidbey Car Show. - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Matt Braswell tells his son, Brendan Braswell, 8, about the 1921 Dodge Brothers Touring Car at the North Whidbey Car Show.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

Sounds of laughter, music and the occasional revving hotrod turned Windjammer Park into a festive area Saturday as rows and rows of cars gleamed under the sun.

The 27th annual North Whidbey Car Show, put on by the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor, drew constant crowds Saturday morning and afternoon as visitors checked out cars from nearly every decade.

The special feature this year was Chevrolet Corvettes. Wendy Hodkin and her husband Dennis came out with their dark green 1971 Corvette, which earned first place for its category.

The Greenbank residents have owned the car for 15 to 20 years, Wendy Hodkin said.

“And we enjoy driving all over the island and we enjoy going to the shows,” Hodkin said.

Hodkin said she had always wanted a Corvette and as to the particular draw of owning a Corvette, Hodkin said, “You can’t afford them when you’re younger. I think they’re a popular car and I think with the aging baby boomers, their parents had one and they always wanted one.”

It’s an investment, Hodkin added.

“They get more expensive as the years go by and will never be reproduced,” Hodkin said.

Also out displaying his 1993 Corvette was Oak Harbor resident Bill Strowbridge. The bright yellow car was modified for open road racing, a fact that couldn’t be missed by the roar of its engine and the license plate reading “Beast 2.” Strowbridge’s car won first in its category.

“It’s an old man’s toy,” Strowbridge laughed. “I’ve always been a car nut. I started in high school driving in demolition derbies.” He’d been racing his Corvette recently, until his wife “had a heart to heart talk with me and said ‘enough, old man,’” Strowbridge said.

Like Hodkin, the desire to own a Corvette was born in Strowbridge’s youth. Upon seeing the “town rich kid” driving “this white car, and it had a magnificent sound,” Strowbridge was instantly enamored with the car. Although he didn’t get his first Corvette until 20 years later, he got to enjoy Corvettes by owning 19 or 20 of them.

“It’s a great hobby and I get so excited when I see the young generation and their cars. I think it keeps you young. It kept me young,” Strowbridge said.

A number of children wandered among the cars, pointing at different models as their parents took photos.

One such pair was Brendan Braswell, 8, and his dad, Matt Braswell. Matt kneeled beside his son to tell him about a 1921 Dodge Brothers Touring Car owned by Jim and Laura Scharf.

It was their first time going to the car show and Brendan said they came just to check it out.

“He likes all the red ones,” Matt said of Brendan. As for Brendan’s dream car, he didn’t care what model it was, as long as it’s a “fast one,” Brendan said.

Pete and Candace Griffin found their dream car, and for a great deal. They sat beside their black 1968 Pontiac Ventura, which they bought for about $3,000 three and one-half years ago.

“This one is very rare, you just don’t find them, but we did see it just sitting next to an old business,” Pete said, adding that the owner was more than happy to get rid of it because it was “taking up space.”

“It was kind of a rust bucket when we bought it,” Pete said. They did all the work themselves and their labor yielded the shining car that received much attention from viewers.

“I think the thing I like most about it is you don’t see many of them ever…. And the public likes it so that’s nice,” Pete said.

“The car show here has just been wonderful,” Candace said. “You get lots of people and sunshine and everything is taken care of. It’s really wonderful.” This is the third time they’ve taken part in the show.

“It was another good success,” said Steven Glade, public information official for the Rotary Club. “We had a lot of cars, a lot of variety and the public were really enjoying themselves and that’s what we want.”

About 240 cars came this year, which is similar to last year’s event, Glade said. Although the show was free, any money raised will fund the club’s annual scholarships for Oak Harbor High School students.

The hot, sunny weather was a joyous relief for Glade and participants alike.

“(The participants) had been there since 7 in the morning and looked like girls getting ready for prom,” Glade said, adding that rain would have distressed the car owners.

Each year, the Rotary Club puts the show on as a service to the community, Glade said. Not only is it free to the public, but it helps bring people from out of town.

“It fills up the hotels and restaurants,” Glade said, adding that people even came from British Columbia. A free shuttle took people downtown.

“That was another feature, to try to introduce people to downtown because it’s so beautiful,” Glade said.

See Saturday’s Whidbey News-Times for a list of award winners.


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