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    Saturday, October 01, 2022

    Vettes at the Beach: more than just cars

    Chevrolet Corvette fans gather for the annual Vettes at the Beach show Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, at Ocean Beach Park in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Chevrolet Corvette fans gather for the annual Vettes at the Beach show Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, at Ocean Beach Park in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Phil Elia admires a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette C-2 as fans gather for the annual Vettes at the Beach show Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, at Ocean Beach Park in New London. Elia has his own ’64 Vette at home, not a convertible, but it is not yet restored. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    David Sugrue, manager of Ocean Beach Park, stops to photograph a 1965 Chevrolet Corvette C-2 as fans gather for the annual Vettes at the Beach show Sunday, September 18, 2022, at Ocean Beach Park in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Chevrolet Corvette fans gather for the annual Vettes at the Beach show Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, at Ocean Beach Park in New London. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    New London ― More than 300 Corvettes lined Ocean Beach Park’s parking lot Sunday afternoon for the “Vettes at the Beach” Corvette show.

    However, there’s more to the annual car show than roaring engines and impressive paint schemes.

    “Corvette people are like a family,” said Mark Christiansen, the vice president of For Corvettes Only Inc. and the event’s organizer.

    For Corvettes Only Inc., a local club of Corvette enthusiasts, invites any and all Corvette owners to put their masterpieces on display for a good cause. Private owners and other clubs alike make their way to what Christiansen called the “largest Corvette show” in southern New England. Participants pay a $20 entry fee for the event, with 70% of proceeds benefiting charities of the club’s choosing.

    The club chooses fives charities to contribute to once the funds are tallied and the day is done. Both Christiansen and club President Bob Sicuranza anticipated more than $10,000 was raised between entry fees, the 50/50 raffle and gift basket raffle. In prior years, the club has made donations to Make-A-Wish, Safe Futures and local food banks.

    “The Corvette people are pretty special,” Sicuranza said. “They really are. The camaraderie is unique.”

    Every generation of Corvette, spanning back to the original C1 from the 1950s to today’s C8, was represented. Awards were given out to the best car and runner-up from each generation, as well as a trophy for Best in Show and one for the club with the most representation at the event. The club with the largest turnout is awarded a $1,000 check to donate to a charity of its choosing. This year it was the Corvette Club of Rhode Island.

    Even those who drove away with hardware admitted that’s not what the event is about.

    “You put in some extra time in your car, make some changes, things like that, it’s a recognition of that,” said Trevor Hartman, whose 65th Anniversary C7 Corvette won best in class. “But otherwise, I think for us it’s just being out here and enjoying the company of other people that have the same passion that you do.”

    Hartman, 49, said he’s been involved with Corvettes for the last three decades. He said he started with a 1975 model when he was 19 years old. Now, he’s a member of the No Rules Corvette Club, where he and other Corvette owners meet up weekly for cruise-ins, go out to dinners and get together for holiday parties, well after car show season ends.

    “It’s fantastic out here,” Hartman said. “This is the show we look forward to every year because it’s here at the beach, it’s well attended, it’s all Corvettes.”

    “Nothing seems to draw as many as this does down here at the shoreline,” he added.

    It was Keith Brothers’ first car show and his soft-top, all original, 1965 convertible was named runner-up for the C2 generation

    “I’m an older C2 guy, but I see all the new Corvettes and the amount of cars that are here today,” Brothers said. “It’s just like a big fraternity for everybody. It’s great to see everybody to come out. It’s great for the city too.”

    The terms “fraternity” and “family” were common responses from participants, but it could not have been more true for the father and son who collaborated to win Best in Show.

    Tom Cooper, 78, and his 49-year-old son, Tom Cooper, took home the grand prize with their 1956 convertible in its first show. They said they’ve owned the car for 41 years and spent the last six restoring it because they “got tired at looking at it.”

    “Said let’s do something better,” Cooper recalls telling his son. “Looked just like that, only it’s so much better now.

    “Once in a lifetime,” the younger Cooper described the experience.

    For Corvettes Only Inc. has been around since 1976 and has put on numerous shows in its history. This was the second year the club held the event at Ocean Beach Park and had its largest showing to date. Sicuranza and Christiansen said it would not have been possible without the help of Dave Sugrue, to whom they gave an appreciation award to at the event’s conclusion.

    “We really like the venue,“ Sicuranza said. ”We get treated real well. Everybody that comes here seems to enjoy it. It’s just a good overall atmosphere.”

    “They really, really have helped up out to grow this event from last year to this year and we’re going to continue to have it down here for years to come,” Christiansen said.

    k.arnold@theday.com

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