Rockburn Open Car Show to showcase classic and cool rides

For his 40th birthday, Lee Rios of Elkridge received a generous present from his wife: a 40-year-old car. It was a 1967 Ford Mustang hardtop, canary yellow, with a 289-horsepower motor.

Wonderful as it was, Rios couldn't help tweaking. He changed the color to silver, added wider tires and swapped in a 302-horsepower engine.

The car, of course, "stays in the garage," he said, and "only comes out when the weather's really nice. No rain."

Rios plans to drive it Saturday, Aug. 18, to Rockburn Branch Park for the Rockburn Open Car Show, a collaboration between Howard County Recreation and Parks and the Elkridge Adult Athletic Association (EAAA). The event runs from noon to 4 p.m.

This will be the fourth year for the car show, which raises money for the parks department and the EAAA scholarship fund. The money is raised through a raffle, and by charging participating cars $10 in advance and $15 the day of the show. Visitors that aren't showcasing their cars pay no admission fee to admire the vehicles, talk to the owners, enjoy live music, eat and vote for their favorites.

The show typically attracts between 50 and 90 cars, and the only requirement is that the cars must date to 1999 or earlier. Starting next year, cars of all vintages may be included, said Rios.

"We're finding out there are a lot of people who have done a lot of work to newer cars," he said.

Although car shows are not unusual in Howard County or the Baltimore region, "it's the venue" that sets the Rockburn car show apart, said Ann Combs, volunteer coordinator and special projects organizer for Howard County Recreation and Parks. Most car shows are in parking lots, she said, but the Rockburn show is in a leafy, shady and visually pleasing park.

Rios, an EAAA member for about 20 years, said the car show is one of the club's largest fundraisers. It probably brings in $3,000 a year, he said, though some of that money is spent on raffle and door prizes. The group gives three scholarships a year, totaling about $90,000 over 25 years, he said.

Awards are given for Best of Show, People's Choice and Best of Class in the categories of American cars, Corvettes, trucks, European imports and Asian imports. Memorial awards are given in the names of former Recreation and Parks director Gary J. Arthur, and EAAA member Jay Herbert.

The car show was held in April the first year, but participation was sparse because it rained, said Combs. Since then, it has been held in August, when there is less chance that owners will keep their vehicles garaged because of the weather.

Elmer Couch, 68, of Columbia, plans to take a hot rod he built about 21 years ago to the show this year. It's a 1930 Ford coupe, modernized with a 1977 Ford motor, disc brakes and "a lot of body work," he said.

The car, ocean blue with a wizard painted on the side, took the People's Choice award at the show two years ago. Couch said he brings the car to maybe 50 shows a year, mostly in Maryland but as far away as Florida. He said he likes the Rockburn show because it is well organized and attracts people who like to talk about the cars that are being showcased.

"The people respect the cars," he said. "They don't try to climb on them or open the doors."

James Kruger, 63, of Ellicott City, plans to be at the show with the white 1962 Corvette he's owned since 1999. The car, with a red interior and more than 300,000 miles, took the People's Choice award in 2009.

"I drive it as often as I can," he said. He likes to take his grandsons Ryan Brandt, who will be entering sixth grade at Elkridge Landing Middle School, and his brother Justin, who is going into fourth grade at Rockburn Elementary School.

Kruger said he takes the car to two or three shows a year, and has been to every Rockburn show since its inception. He'll park in a shady spot, he said, then "we'll walk around and look at the cars and get hot dogs. People walk up all day long and ask me about the car."

If you plan to go, use the park entrance off Montgomery Road next to Rockburn Elementary School.

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