By Jeff Gallatin
For many involved with the annual North Olmsted Firefighters Cruise-In for Muscular Dystrophy, the event has driven itself into a permanent place in their hearts.
Whether working, participating or just attending the popular annual car show, many people have made a long-term commitment to the event, which shows off hundreds of antique muscle cars and other fun vehicles while raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This year’s 27th annual event on July 16 was again held at the North Olmsted Corporate Center and followed in the successful tracks of its predecessors.
Carl Schanz, North Olmsted Fire Department lieutenant and longtime chief organizer for the event, said helping the MDA and children who suffer from muscular dystrophy remains one of the big draws of the event to longtime participants in the show.
“Without a doubt,” Schanz said, “we certainly have a lot of caring people and businesses who take the time to help out by working at the event, donating something or just attending it. This show wouldn’t be so popular without the backing of those people.”
Schanz said there are many people like himself who have either worked, participated or attended the show all or most of the 27 years it has been held.
‘We’ve got some pretty good people dedicated to this show,” he said. “I see this year we’ve got some people from families who had parents or grandparents start coming to the show, and now their kids are here either attending, working or bringing a vehicle. It backs up our point when we say this is one of the best family entertainment deals of the year in the area.”
North Olmsted resident Louie DiMatteo is one person who has been at the show all 27 years.
“I’ve been here a few times just to look around as a fan, but most of the time I’ve had a vehicle here. One of the big things I like is competing and seeing the other cars,” he said.
This year, DiMatteo again brought a 1961 Corvette, which he has had for 27 years.
“It and the show came at pretty much the same time for me,” he said. “I got the car only after begging my dad to let me sell an Iroc sports car that I had just gotten about nine months before. He finally gave in and said I could do it, but that I had better stick with this one, because he wasn’t going to back me or let me do it again if I decided to sell this one and get something else. Well, all those years and a lot of work later, I’ve still got this one.”
DiMatteo said he also has kept his word to the man from whom he bought the Corvette by showing it at car shows.
“He had used it as a racer, but he didn’t want to do that anymore, and he asked to promise not use it that way either, because he wanted the car preserved,” DiMatteo said. “I’ve never raced it, I’ve just put a lot into it. I’m a chrome guy, so I redid it underneath in chrome and I’ve put in the chrome engine parts and other areas, but I don’t race it. Shows like this are its competitions now.”
DiMatteo said the shows means more than just competing to him.
“I enjoy the competition and seeing what people think of it, but I also love just coming here and talking to other people about cars,” he said. “I don’t have any kids, but I love that this one helps kids. And I see friends that I only see once or twice a year, and it lets us catch up with each other.”
Two of DiMatteo’s friends are Tom Hart and his nephew, Patrick Hart, both of Berea.
“I’ve put on car shows myself, competed in or just come to look around, and this is always one of the best ones,” Tom said. “It’s got a lot of people and always has interesting cars and people to see.”
Schanz said he’s enjoyed getting to know many of the people involved in the show.
“There’s a lot of interesting people who come from different places,” he said. “We have people come from different states just to be there, and like I said, we have our people who come all the time.”
For the overall show this year, Schanz said initial figures show it raised about $9,000, with donations still coming in, and had 400 cars this year. Schanz proudly notes that is on top of the more than $250,000 the show has raised in the previous 26 years.