BRIDGEWATER — In 1962, Theodore Craun, then president of the Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Company, decided to start an antique car show at the Bridgewater Lawn Party.
He hoped the additional activity would help drawn spectators to the fire company’s annual summer fundraiser. The entry fee wouldn’t be much—just a couple of dollars—and maybe the exhibitors would head over to the food booths. And maybe a few spectators might come out to see the cars, stay a little longer, get a little hungrier.
Craun already had one entry: a navy and tan 1931 Ford roadster he’d been working on in his spare time away from his job at First Virginia Bank in Bridgewater.
And he had a ready helper in fiancée Anna Jean Keller.
“He called up and asked me to help out. That first year, there were three cars,” Anna Jean Craun remembered. “The most we ever had was 202 and we’ve never had less than 100 from then on.”
Fifty years later, the car show is still a Valley favorite. Theodore Craun passed away in 2008, but Anna Jean, her two sons Charlie and Jamie, and their families still continue the family tradition.
Registration begins at 8 a.m. July 21.
“Pretty soon, the lawn is just filled with them,” said Charlie Craun, who like his father, is a fireman, past president and current board member of the fire company.
The $5 entry fee is being waived this year in honor of the event’s 50th anniversary.
Anna Jean says for the first time, she’ll have a donation jar out at the registration table.
“I never did that before, but this is for the fire company, you know,” she said.
The first 200 entries will receive a commemorative dash plaque.
Usually Robert Miller and Frank Will do the honors, but this year, there will be no judging.
“I talked to Robert and he said he was thinking he was ready for a break,” Charlie Craun said. “Nowadays, it’s as much socializing and not as much judging. People want to show their cars off and have a good time, and people put so much time into their cars that sometimes it’s a tough choice to make. Now those two, they go around and take notes and put their heads together and they do a good job. They haven’t been shot at yet. They get fussed at, but they have good heads on their shoulders. They’ll get a break this year.”
At 6 p.m., the Crauns, including grandchildren Ashley, 17, Casey, 5, and the newest addition, one-year-old Avery, will pile into the roadster to lead the parade of antique cars and tractors.
“It seats four comfortably, but we usually manage to fit in a few more than that,” Anna Jean Craun said, smiling.
No doubt she’ll be remembering her husband as she makes that drive. They were married a few months after that first car show—and the Ford took them on their honeymoon to Hershey, Pa.
“It’s a family heirloom,” she said, looking at the car with great affection. “I’ll never sell it.”
For more information about the car show, call 828-2709.
LAWN PARTY SCHEDULE
Wednesday, July 18: Family Night. Veterans eat for free. There’s a Ride-All-You-Can armband for sale and a Kids Tractor Pull at 7 p.m. Allegheny Blue provides the music.
Thursday, July 19: The Antique Tractor Pull starts at 2 p.m. A cornhole tournament (registration at 5 p.m., $40/team) will be near the bandstand. Music by Glenn’s Karaoke.
Friday, July 20: The Firemen’s Parade is at 6 p.m. Music by Stan Morris & Sundown.
Saturday, July 21: Registration for the antique car show is from 8 a.m.-noon. The parade is at 6 p.m. Music by American Brewed.
For more information, call the firehouse at 828-3121.