Beaches Summertime Cruisin's raise cash for kids

By Paris Achen and John Branton

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photoBud Hajek of Washougal takes a look at a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, right, and a 1954 Chevrolet 210 on Wednesday at PIR.

(/The Columbian)

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$110,000 donated to groups that help kids

Organizers of the Beaches Summertime Cruisin’s donated $110,000 Wednesday to groups that help children who are disadvantaged in many ways:

The Vancouver Police Department’s Police Activities League; Arthur D. Curtis Children’s Justice Center that investigates crimes and abuse; Northwest Association of Blind Athletes; a hospital nursery for premature children; the YWCA Y’s Care that helps homeless children; Rosemary Anderson POIC group; Share backpack program that feeds hungry children and their families; Camp Angelos for children who are terminally ill with cancer; Vancouver School District Foundation program that provides medical care for children whose parents can’t afford it; a group that gives scholarships for kids; and Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Washington memberships.

On stage Wednesday, organizer Mark Matthias thanked several sponsors.

“You guys are amazing,” he said. “You help us every year.”

2011 sponsors

• Les Schwab.

• The Columbian.

• Maletis Beverage.

• Widmer Brothers Brewing.

• Budweiser.

• Garage Motor Sports.

• Riverview Community Bank.

• Dick Hannah Dealerships.

• ProCaliber.

• Fast Specialties.

A friend of mine once got philosophical and asked another friend, “Jim, what’s it all about?”

Jim pondered the question for a while, and answered, “Cars.”

And it’s true.

If you want to raise money, lots of it, to help needy kids, you invite people with way-cool cars like Corvettes and 1950 chopped Ford woodies to bring them by the thousands to Portland International Raceway to show them off and win prizes.

You throw in live music, such as the One of a Kind Drumline, featuring kids from Clark County, and a play area for children and food concessions.

And you sell admission tickets, that, after expenses, help disadvantaged kids — a lot.

That’s what the sponsors, organizers, car lovers and ticket buyers have done since 1996 with the Beaches Summertime Cruisin’s, which happen from 4 p.m. to dusk Wednesdays from June to September at PIR.

Donations over the years have reached almost $1.03 million, Beaches owner Mark Matthias told the crowd from the stage Wednesday evening to hearty cheers.

With the sponsors on stage with him, Matthias, who started the popular event, thanked them and gave out giant checks, totaling $110,000, to groups that help kids.

“It’s been a lot of fun over the years to evolve this show,” Matthias said. “It’s kind of a fun way to raise money.”

In an earlier interview, Matthias said, “We just had our record night July 13: 1,591 hot rods and bikes. We estimated the attendance at about 4,500 people, including owners, friends and general public.”

Wednesday evening attracted a big crowd, too, where visitors could feast their eyes on cars and motorcycles of every year, make and model imaginable.

Rick May, who lives near Hillsboro, Ore., was showing off his gleaming purple 1950 Ford woody, with its torpedo nose and customized with blond bird’s-eye maple. It’s on sale for $89,000.

“I love woodies,” said May, a retired Realtor. “I’ve got three of them.”

Woodies were made famous decades ago by surfers.

“It’s kind of a California nostalgia trip,” he said.

With the song “Help me Ronda” coming from speakers onstage, Mike Beam of Gresham, Ore., saw two young boys admiring his dark-green and yellow Oliver Special.

“You guys want to get in it?” he asked.

Sure, they did, and they had a blast.

Beam said he bought the car, which was set up as a dragster, and used only the body as he built it up as a sort of 1930s-style racing car with tires exposed.

“Every bit of it I built,” he said. “I painted it. I stitched the seats.”

The tiny convertible has 375 horsepower.

“It’s extremely fast,” he said. “I drive the heck out of it. I took it to L.A. last year.”

Dragsters nearby waiting for the signal light, engines roaring and tires smoking, add to the car-culture allure.

Wednesday featured the Northwest Corvette Club, and many of the high-powered Chevrolet roadsters were there, including the most beautiful ever made, the 1959.

The white-and-gray-trimmed car had been brought to perfect shape, in stock condition as in the showroom.

There was a red interior with the old-style flat steering wheel.

The 1959’s lines were rolling and curvaceous, like a big cat crouching, a thing of beauty, a work of art.

Sharper lines came to other Chevrolet cars that same year, such as the flaring tail fins of the sedans.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.