Published 8:30 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Nine years ago, Smithfield resident Tom Marinelli was driving his restored 1970 Cougar to Grafton to participate in car shows.
“I hated driving all the way over there,” he said. That’s when he and fellow car buff, Tom North, organized the Smithfield Lions Club Cruz-Ins, twice monthly car shows now going into their eighth season.
Weather permitting, the events are held on the first and third Fridays, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Sentara St. Luke’s Medical Center, 20209 Sentara Way, near Carrollton. The next show is on May 20.
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The car shows, which run from April through October, have become drawing cards for classic auto buffs across Hampton Roads, said Marinelli, vice president of the organization.
“With two shows a month, we are the largest, recurring car show in Hampton Roads,” Marinelli said. “We have a fantastic turnout, with as many spectator cars as show cars in recent years.”
The organization will celebrate its 100th cruz-in on June 3 with a giant cake, he added.
Each event attracts an average of 80 mostly-vintage cars and trucks, although occasionally someone shows newer model cars, he said. A different local car club is featured at each show.
“This gives the car club members an opportunity to recruit and brag about their restored cars,” Marinelli said. “And it lets spectators know they can expect to see something different at every show.”
Cost is free for spectators; there is a $2 donation for everyone showing a vehicle, he said.
Cruz-ins generate $2,500 in profit annually for the Smithfield Lions, Marinelli said. It’s the club’s most consistent funding source for community service projects, he said.
All proceeds go back to the public through charitable donations, he said. Services include providing batteries to the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office for Operation Lifesaver; annual visual screenings for every public school student in Isle of Wight County; and distribution of donated prescription glasses and hearing aids to people who have been referred by the Isle of Wight Department of Social Services.
During screenings, the Lions will send notes home with any student who has less-than-perfect vision recommending a follow-up exam by an eye doctor.