Fun for the Entire Family: There’s a Car Festival Near You

By Alex Perdikis

Americans love cars. The car is more than something to get around in — it’s a way of life. That’s probably why there are so many car shows and festivals around the country. They’re not all beauty contests, either. Most have unique twists that make them stand out. So, grab some snacks, gather the kids and hit the road for some family fun at one of these festivals.

The Newport Hill Climb

Newport, Indiana, is home to the annual Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb. The actual race is held on the first Sunday in October, but the festival itself starts the Friday before and lasts three days. The festival attracts up to 100,000 people each year. The hill at the center of the competition is steep with a finish line 1,800 feet up.

What gives the Hill Climb festival its unique spin is that it’s a hill climb competition of unlikely participants. The competition is open only to 1942 and older stock autos and trucks, discontinued makes through 1955 and non-OHV motorcycles through the year 1953.

“The sight of a Model T  or other antique powering up the hill is what makes this festival so much fun.” — Alex Perdikis


The Newport Hill Climb has a fascinating backstory as well. The hill in the center of town has been a challenge since “new-fangled” automobiles were invented. In the early 1900s, two owners of what are now called antique cars decided to see which made it up the fastest. Out of that competition, a tradition was born. The first formal Hill Climb competition was held in 1909.

Aside from the competition itself, there’s also a car show, food, vendors and nearby camping and lodging. You can also purchase a raffle ticket to help support the festival. What’s the prize, you ask? Each year, organizers give away a restored vintage car.

The Wine & Wheels Car Show

This one-day festival is young compared to the Hill Climb, but it’s already popular. Held at the Catoctin Breeze Vineyard in Thurmont, Maryland, every July, the Wine & Wheels raises money for charity.

The car show features modern and classic vehicles and a “Top 10 Best Cars” competition where visitors vote for their favorites. Fun includes live music, food, raffles and wine. Even though wine is served, the festival has plenty of activities for kids as well.

You can enter your own vintage car, if you have one, for a nominal fee.

The Celebration Exotic Car Festival

April in central Florida means fun in the sun for a lot of people. April is also when the Celebration Exotic Car Festival takes place.

Each year, the festival raises money for a children’s charity. And, each year is better and bigger than the last. The four-day festival brings together a collection of race cars, Hollywood film cars and, of course, exotic cars. Celebrities also make appearances. “Happy Days” regulars Anson Williams and Donny Most are just two of the celebrities who’ve recently appeared.

The inspiration for the festival came after the tragic death of Laura Ippoliti in 2001. Laura was an F1 and Ferrari enthusiast, well-known for her big heart and love of children. Family members decided to turn Laura’s death into a positive and the Celebration Exotic Car Festival was born.

Founded in 2004, the Celebration Exotic Car Festival is a charitable event with 100 percent of the proceeds going to children’s’ charities such as Make-a-Wish and the Special Olympics.

International Route 66 Mother Road Festival

Tucked away in Missouri’s Ozarks sits the town of Springfield. Most of the year, it’s a much quieter place than nearby Branson. But every August Springfield turns into a celebration of America’s Mother Road.

The two-day show features hundreds of vintage, classic and antique vehicles in every class imaginable. The Route 66 Mother Road Festival also features a charity bike show, parade and live music.

Of course, a festival celebrating Route 66 wouldn’t be complete without displays and fun facts about the Mother Road itself. Collectors, artists, historians, authors and associations creatively display memorabilia and artifacts that make the past come alive.

Woodward Dream Cruise

More than a million people visit downtown Detroit in August to take in the Woodward Dream Cruise. Approximately 40,000 cars and trucks line Woodward Avenue for over a mile. Vintage cars, trucks, race cars, exotic cars and performance cars are just some of the unusual and historic vehicles you’ll see.

The Woodward Dream Cruise came out of humble beginnings. Officials in the city of Ferndale, Michigan, needed to raise money for a soccer field. Of course, cars are a way of life so near the Motor City. What better way to raise those soccer field funds than a car cruise with stops at the local drive-ins?

The first official cruise outdid expectations when 250,000 people attended. Now the one-day event is the world’s largest. Family events include a 5K foot race, kids’ inflatable zone, parades, games, music, movies, competitions and prizes.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.