HIGH SPRINGS ‒ On a cool and sunny Oct. 31, over 150 cars assembled near the new Market Pavilion on Main Street and Railroad Road in downtown High Springs. For the past 27 years, the High Springs Rotary Club has been hosting an annual car show in downtown to raise funds for humanitarian projects. This year, the club debated whether to hold the contest at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Options considered included a virtual car show, but that garnered little interest from potential participating car clubs. In the past, the show had featured 100-120 cars from all over Florida and participation by almost two dozen car clubs.
The Rotary Club of High Springs opted to carry on the tradition to raise funds for their projects. “We weren't sure how well it would work, how much participation we would have or how big an audience we would get,” said Gary Imler, treasurer of the club. “It's not a cheap endeavor to put on and takes a lot of manpower to do it right, but we decided we had to try so we could raise money for our drive to give a free dictionary to every 3rd grade student in Alachua.”
The first Rotary Club was founded in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1905 by Paul P Harris. The club was founded with the stated purpose of bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. Today there are over 35,000 member clubs worldwide, with a membership of 1.2 million individuals. The international organization uses its fundraising to promote literacy and education in developing countries, provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects, improve health conditions, grow local economies, fight disease and promote peace and conflict resolution.
The High Springs Rotary Club has existed since the 1920s and is one of five Rotary clubs in Alachua County. The High Springs club has been involved with funding the local Boy Scouts since 1926, and they also work with several charities and outreach programs, including St. Madeline's Church Outreach Program to provide food and shelter to those in need.
The main fundraiser event for the High Springs chapter is the annual car show. “We felt it was important to put it on, not only to raise project funds but also to give people a chance to get out for some outside activity and fun,” said Imler. “We felt it was both a fundraiser and a fun raiser for the public. We couldn't have asked for better weather and participation. Despite our concerns, it turned out to be one of the biggest car shows we have had.”
Entrants in the car show pay a registration fee to enter their car and additional money is raised with a 50/50 raffle, food sales and drawings for prizes. “Every penny of profit goes toward the dictionary for 3rd graders project,” Imler said. “It’s a huge undertaking and our club only has four active members so we couldn't have pulled it off without sponsors and volunteers, as well as the help of the other Alachua County clubs.”
The show featured a wide variety of vintage, classic and sport vehicles ranging from early Model T's to souped up Mustangs and Camaros as well as a category for motorcycles. Prizes were awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and several special awards. The top three winners were Doug Mill's 1974 stock mustang; Mike Powell's modified 1967 Mustang and Brett Harder's 1979 Honda XLM 100 motorcycle.
“We had a good steady crowd all day and the car participants were very happy with the way it turned out,” Imler said. “People were just happy to be able to get outside on a sunny day and enjoy the car show. We took a chance and it all worked out.”
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