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Jalopyrama brings hot rods, 1950s feel to Ag Center

Vintage vehicles are on display at the 2015 Jalopyrama event at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster.
Vintage vehicles are on display at the 2015 Jalopyrama event at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster. (Lyle Willits submitted photo)

Jalopyrama has grown in leaps and bounds since the first show, held in Glen Burnie in 2004 with 100 cars inside a National Guard Armory and 25 cars outside. Last year — their first year at the Carroll County Agriculture Center — the show boasted more than 400 outside cars and 100 more inside and 2,000 people in attendance.

Jalopyrama was the brainchild of Mike Szuba, who recruited his friends, affectionately named the Rusty Nuts Hot rods. They wanted a car show modeled after those held inside armories in the 1950s and '60s with cars no older than 1963, hot rods, customs, and vintage race cars. And they wanted all proceeds to benefit a good cause.

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"I started [Jalopyrama] as a benefit for the Providence Center of Anne Arundel County, a nonprofit that helps developmentally disabled young adults," Szuba said. "My youngest brother had Down Syndrome and my dad did a lot of fundraising for the Providence Center. When my father passed, all the fundraising he had done for them for over 30 years went away with him, so in 2004 I picked up his torch to raise money for the Providence Center."

Szuba said Jalopyrama remained at the armory in Glen Burnie for five years, until they were "bursting at the seams." They moved to the Annapolis National Guard Armory in 2009 to accommodate more cars and remained there until 2014 when National Guard armories were no longer allowed to rent space for public events.

"Two of the fellows who do the show with me live in Finksburg and Westminster and they wanted to continue the show," Szuba said.

After attending a swap meet at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, Szuba knew he'd found Jalopyrama's new home. He said the Rusty Nuts wanted the proceeds to benefit local charities.

"I went to The Arc of Carroll County and — because I am a cancer survivor — I got in touch with the cancer center at Carroll Hospital," Szuba said.

Now, the show benefits the William E. Kahlert Regional Cancer Center at Carroll County Hospital, the ARC of Carroll County and other local nonprofits.

Westminster resident Steve Turner said Szuba and Finksburg resident Jay Fitzhugh worked together and shared a common interest, so 13 years ago they joined forces to start that first show.

"There are about 35 of us in the Rusty Nuts now," Turner said. "As a teenager we loved our cars and did a lot of stuff with cars."

Turner said Jalopyrama was successful from the start but when they moved to Carroll County it really took off.

"We have something special," Turner said. "We look for unique custom cars that we would have likely seen in the 1950s and '60s, and we've found so many that people had tucked away in barns and garages."

All three said word spreads in the car community and that helped them uncover new old cars to invite.

"I personally invite the cars we have inside and we try to not repeat the same cars every year," Szuba said. "We work to find cars that have been hidden away or rebuilt cars — not something with a lot of bling. They need to be traditional-looking hot rods."

The $10 admission fee offers visitors an opportunity to view cars that look as they would have back then, including cars from as far away as California, Michigan and Ohio.

"Everybody who comes through the gate is given a program book with the schedule of events and a list of 99 percent of the cars that will be inside on the floor," Szuba said. "We have two cars coming from California — a [1932] Ford Kelly Coup that was built into a hot rod in the Philadelphia area in the '50s that Bob Kasner and his wife Deb are bringing, and one being driven across country from the San Francisco Bay area of California, a 1961 Pontiac that Gary Minor and his wife, Mary, are bringing."

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Szuba hopes visitors will be surprised by Jalopyrama's secret theme.

"We have a special theme this year that we are not giving out but if you grew up in Maryland and hung out in the hamburger joints in the '50s and '60s you will get a kick out of it," he said.

Fitzhugh agreed. The theme makes them a more distinctive show believes.

"We have always strived to take people back to an era," Fitzhugh said. "Last year we immolated the floor plan and the design of a late-'50s California car show. Those California guys were very artistically involved."

Szuba said anyone hankering for a trip down memory lane should attend.

"It will trigger memories of cruising back in the '50s and '60s, and you meet and talk to so many people about their cars," he said.

The show has been featured in many car magazines including Rodder's Journal, a well-known quarterly that Fitzhugh has written for over the past 19 years.

Szuba thinks visitors will love the panel jam, to take place at about 1 p.m.

"We have six pin-stripers coming and we have a big easel we built with six blank metal panels, three per side" he said. "Each pin-striper will choose their paint color. When we stay start they have two minutes to do whatever design they want on the panel. They sign their name and then move to the next panel. The new person has to look at it and add their design in their color. When they are finished all six panels will have been painted by six different artists and they'll go up for live auction."

Near the stage where the panel jam takes place, visitors will find a list of other donated and handmade items also in the live auction, to begin between 2:30 and 3 p.m.

Throughout the day, live music by the band Retro Deluxe will keep the show hopping with tunes from the 1950s and '60s. Two girls dressed like pin-up models will circulate the crowds selling tickets for a 50/50 raffle. Szuba said last year's winner received more than $800.

Outside vendors will sell everything and anything to do with cars and Szuba said a handful of select vendors will set up inside, where they'll also sell "swag," like T-shirts, stickers and posters.

"Guys I specifically selected will be inside with old magazines, model cars, lamps and furniture made out of old car parts — beautiful stuff," he said. "One guy has vintage memorabilia from old raceways. We have a guy with vintage records, automobile and other really neat stuff. We have 15 different vendors inside. Outside, in front of the stage we will have a swap meet area. The hospital will set up a little gift shop and The Arc has a table."

Throughout the day, Earl Howard, of Laurel, will fire up his super-powered tractor for people to see and hear.

"It's a big Allison [engine], like a jet airplane," Szuba said with a laugh.

The show also features a selection of food trucks including Brickers with hot dogs, chicken fingers and French fries, Old Town Grill with burgers and other foods, Yum Yum Shack with roasted, glazed peanuts, and pulled pork by the Kommie Pig.

"A cupcakery called Flavors out of Timonium will have gourmet cupcakes," Szuba said, "and Beefalo Bobs, who has been with us since the beginning, will have pit beef, ham and turkey. They will be selling food inside and outside at the show."

All three Rusty Nuts said their show is a car aficionado's dream.

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"This is a unique experience," Turner said. "We try to capture the way car shows used to be. And it is not for profit. It all goes to charity."

Fitzhugh added that it is about more than cars.

"It is the friendships we have built over the years. We are very proud of what we have been able to create. And we are doing it all for our own community."

A limited number of 15-by-20-foot vendor spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

The Carroll County Agriculture Center is at 706 Agriculture Center Drive in Westminster.

For more information about Jalopyrama visit www.jalopyrama.com or call the Agriculture Center at 410-848-6704.

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