It was the curvature of the front hood, its distinguished, classic look and feel that grabbed and held David Rawcliffe's attention. A classic car enthusiast most of his life, the retired businessman spotted a dark green hotrod at a car show in the Bay Area in the mid-'90s and, two weeks later, paid $6,500 for one of his own. He modernized the 1930 Packard 726 Sedan over the years, made it driveable and put more money into it "than makes sense."
"I just love that it's different from anything else," the 68-year-old from Nevada City said. "You don't see others on the road or at shows."
His red beauty certainly stood out at Sunday's car show in Fair Oaks, which was the scene of the . The traditional two-day Cinco de Mayo celebration attracted thousands of locals and visitors alike and set a record for the most registered classic cars – 246 this year, up from 205 in 2011. The traditional festival held at the Fair Oaks Village – sponsored by the and – kicked off Saturday with a parade and culminated Sunday with the 5-mile "Sun Run" and classic car show awards.
"I felt this was a good setting for a car show, so I came today," said Rawcliffe, a first-timer at the Fiesta Days car show. "I like that it's in a village and not a parking lot or a fairground."
He wasn't the only one with an affinity for the atmosphere. Local artist Lani Holden-Kane, who describes her creative style as eclectic, said she'd rather stay close to home than travel long distances to sell her hand-crafted jewelry, leather works and gourd pieces. "People in this area seem relatively polite," she said. "The people are really nice and it's a good setting with the trees and shade."
And the free admission, which isn't the case at all festivals in this area and throughout California, adds a welcoming touch. "It dictates who can and can't come," said Christy Flower, a Fair Oaks artist who recenlty got frustrated with the slow floral industry and ventured out on her own to sell jewelry. "I love the setting – the park and trees are beautiful, and the dogs and families."
The scents of sweet kettle corn, fresh garlic that blanketed hot fries and simmering teriyaki-drenched meats filled the air, while the constantly crowing roosters hopped about and found human friends with whom to share a snack. Sunday's mild, warm weather was a refreshing shift from Saturday's blustery winds and gusts, though the actual Cinco de Mayo seemed to bring out the crowds.
But the annual "Sun Run" 5-mile race certainly brought out the athletic types and got the morning off to an adrenalin-pumped start. There were nearly 700 participants between the "Sun Run" and the 2.3-mile "Chicken Run," and a few kids who ran shorter races.
This year's top winners included Cristian Morinico, a 24-year-old Rancho Cordova resident. He took first place for men at 27:29 and while was happy, said he wanted to beat the course record of 26:28. The winner for females was 25-year-old Tamara Torlakson, who was running with Fleet Feet Racing and clocked in at 35:08.
Back along the main road, older men and women – and the younger generations – walked by the bright, shiny, vintage vehicles in admiration. Santa Claus, otherwise known as Tom Urban of Rancho Cordova, made a special appearance to show off his "sleigh" - a 1928 Ford Speedster - and take pictures with kids and adults. Even 3-year-old Marshall "Slick" Tiffin got in on the fun, as he "drove" a tyke-sized car his grandfather had crafted.
And Rawcliffe, shining his hotrod in between conversations with passersby, spoke of the other side of owning such a classic, pricey piece of equipment. Mainly a show car, he rarely takes it on the road, and when he does, it's with his wife to a nice part of the state. But even driving it for a full day can be exhausting, he noted. "I'm worn out at the end of the day because people get closer to look or to take pictures," Rawcliffe said. "It's a little nerve-wracking. You've got to be on your toes to keep it from being dinged."
But the extra stress is made up for by the hotrod's uniqueness. And like any great car owner, Rawcliffe has a special connection with it that can only be compared to, well, a lady. "It's my second love," he admitted.
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