Hot rods, customs, classics, antiques, special interest, vintage and other unique cars are constantly driving around Woodinville.
Saturday, July 31, cars of all models are encouraged to stop by American Legion Post 127 for model car displays and refreshments from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free cruise-in event honors former Bothell resident Roger Vares, who died two years ago, for his lifetime of service in the American Legion.
This event is designed to stimulate interest in more community events at Post 127, according to event manager Richard Gross. Members from the Woodinville Cruisers Car Club, as well as a young photographer with a passion for cars, will be showing off his vehicle as well.
The car club will also be hosting "The Big Woodinville Car Show" on Sunday, Aug. 29 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Woodinville Sports Club.
Events like these are exactly what Rich McKee imagined when forming the Woodinville Car Club on Facebook several years ago.
McKee, a longtime resident and real estate broker for Marketplace Sotheby’s, said he noticed all these fun and unique cars around Woodinville, but never saw an opportunity to meet the people behind the wheel. In early 2016, after kicking off the Facebook group, he started hosting car shows around town.
“I've been a collector for years,” he said. “I've had odd collections of fun, different classics and unique cars for years.”
Shortly after starting the club, McKee said, he learned about the Woodinville Classic Cruisers. The club, which was specific to classic cars, was founded by the owner of McCorry’s on the Slough and had slowly dwindled in size over the years.
“We made the decision to go ahead and combine the two groups,” he said. “It's a car community. People just enjoy cars, and so I didn't want to be specific to classics. I didn't want to isolate it.”
The purpose of the club is to provide a space for everybody who enjoys motor vehicles, McKee said, no matter the type.
“Community is what it's all about for me” he said. “That's been my vision, my goal and what has been created out of it. When I say community, it isn't just people that like cars.”
The club started doing birthday, anniversary and graduation cruises during COVID-19. McKee also organized two back-to-back cruises in honor of graduating seniors. While the idea was started during the pandemic, he hopes to make it an annual tradition.
In 2016, McKee said, he hosted the first annual Christmas Light Cruise and 25 cars showed up with decorated cars. Four years later, more than 3,000 people lined the streets in Woodinville and 110 cars paraded around town.
McKee still gets requests on a weekly basis to help support nearby birthdays and celebrations, he said, and foresees the tradition to continue into the future.
“Every event that I host is free,” he said. “It's free for participants, it's free for spectators. It's all about community. And it wouldn't surprise me if we see that continues to grow, especially without COVID.”
The club meets on the third Wednesday of the month at Woodin Creek Village, McKee said. According to him, those meetings are geared towards sharing upcoming events, stories and photos as well as a chance for everybody in the club to get together and hangout.
Even though the group is based in Woodinville, he said, the club doesn’t discriminate against where people come from. He said the club has members from all over the state who bring cars to the events.
Anthony Schmidt, a 13-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, is one of the members in the car club. Several years ago, he quickly gained popularity for his talent for photographing miniature cars to make them look real.
Greg Wilkinson, owner of Miracle Carpets in Woodinville, gifted Anthony with a real 1957 Ford Custom 300 in early 2020. When McKee heard about the car donation, he volunteered to set up the event.
Wilkinson and McKee also planned a behind-the-scenes surprise restoration of the vehicle, which included various auto shops and volunteers from the community. To present Anthony with the car, the club cruised over to his neighborhood and surprised him with the renovated vehicle.
“The way that the whole community came together for this special young boy was incredible,” McKee said.
Ramona Schmidt, Anthony’s mother, said her favorite part about the club is their instant acceptance and comradery. There are no judgments and everyone looks out for him, she said.
“It seems the car community attracts a special group of people with very welcoming hearts,” she said. “It's like a huge extended family. This is really the change I hope to see in the world, understanding and acceptance.”
For the first time, Ramona said, he feels like he belongs. It’s quite a contrast to what he has experienced growing up, she said.
“He has found his people,” she said. “They make him feel important, and welcome and wanted.”
Anthony loves going to car shows and seeing the wide variety of automobiles, Ramona said. He loves them all no matter how ordinary or obscure. He could sit for hours in the driver’s seat, she said, which makes it especially enjoyable when an owner gives him permission to sit in one.
“It really has changed his life, there’s no other way to describe it,” Ramona said. “I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s like a quote from the movie Fast and Furious, ‘I don’t have friends, I have family.’”
Anthony will be a special guest at the American Legion cruise-in on Saturday. He plans to sell some of his photos, and show his new car as well.